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Munsey Park Village considers new $30 fee for traffic court cases

Munsey Park Village Hall is pictured Friday, April

Munsey Park Village Hall is pictured Friday, April 25, 2014. Credit: Barry Sloan

Guilty or not guilty?

The answer is key as Munsey Park officials decide who should be saddled with administrative fees for traffic court.

The village board proposed a $30 fee for traffic violations. The board last week proposed the law that would enact what officials called a "driver responsibility fee" after the Village Judge, John B. Turano, suggested the legislation.

But Mayor Frank DeMento said officials are weighing an exemption for motorists who are exonerated in court.

"I think that's fair," DeMento said. "For those people we do have to process, we'd be covering our costs. It's just a way to offset the time spent by village personnel, the judge."

DeMento said the village pays hourly fees for outside attorneys to serve as prosecutors and some clerical salaries. "To not have the cost of all that administration offset, it's a concern," he said.

The board is to hold additional public hearings on the proposal next month.

Officials in the neighboring North Shore villages of Old Westbury, Port Washington North, Flower Hill and East Hills said they do not impose additional court fees that go directly to the municipalities. A state-imposed fee is charged to violators, and a portion of that fee is shared with the villages.

Suffolk officials last year barred the county's Traffic and Parking Violations Agency from assessing a $50 administrative fee in most traffic cases, whether the violation was dismissed or the driver found guilty. That fee now is imposed only on cases that are not dismissed.

Munsey Park's proposal is an effort to have offenders, not residents in the village of 2,700 people, pay for the court operations, officials said.

"There's a cost to everything that goes on in the village," said Deputy Mayor Sean Haggerty. "I don't believe those [court] costs should be coming out of the tax rolls of our residents."

The village court "has to be self-sustained," he said.

Old Westbury Mayor Fred Carillo said in an email that his village court doesn't impose such a fee in traffic cases, but "I like the idea." He said he asked the village attorney "to review the [Munsey Park] law to determine if it is feasible." He said he does not favor extra fees for drivers whose tickets are dismissed or are found not guilty.

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