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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ind. Courts - Should a judge be able to select the copier for his court?

Or should the choice be made by the County Commissioners or County Council? That is an issue in Howard County, where Superior Court I judge William Menges' office is in need of a new copier. Some quotes from a lengthy story April 12th in the Kokomo Perspective:

[Commissioner Paul Wyman] "My problem is which machine do we go with."

"But until you know how my office operates, you're not in a position, quite frankly, to tell me how to operate the day-to-day of the court and which is going to be best," said Menges. "As far as I know, you've never been in my court and seen what happens.

"And, in all fairness, if you come up there, not being a lawyer, not being a litigator, you wouldn't have any idea what you were looking at anyway. Anymore than I can come into your office and tell you how to improve your operation."

"I am going by the numbers you're sharing with me," said Wyman. "You've given us the data. The numbers you're giving me all fit the Bizhub 501 just fine. So I have to make a decision on dollars. I'm asking you to take the middle of the road. There is nothing the 501 can't do for you that you need done. Why spend the extra $4,300?"

It was the climax of a debate that plodded along for more than 20 minutes. Menges touted his record of fiscal responsibility, touting an overall saving for $238,000 for taxpayers since being elected to the bench. A portion of that savings - $63,000 - came from obtaining grants to cover one-time costs, like the purchase of a big-screen television for remote hearings. The remainder came from not spending money at the budgeted rate in 2004.

"That's money I could have easily said I want the same budget as last year," said Menges. "I'm very careful with how we spend taxpayers' money. That's why I've been able to save the $238,000."

Menges also engaged in a number of analogies to try to demonstrate the difference in quality between the 501 and 601 models beyond the numbers which show a 10 page-per-minute increase in speed. These comparisons caused Wyman to respond with incredulity.

"It's pretty much the same comparison between the Tahoe and the Caprice," said Menges, referring to the Howard County Sheriff's Department's decision to purchase the Tahoe because of its towing and storage capabilities not shared by the Caprice.

"Seriously?" asked Wyman.

"Seriously," said Menges. "The difference in weight and the difference in size and the difference in life expectancy is the same situation. Facetiously, people have asked me if I really need a copier. The court has gotten by with a foolscap, a quill pen and a bottle of ink. Theoretically, we could get by without any copiers or computers or typewriters.

"The function we're performing is exactly the same as it was back when Indiana became a state. The difference is, instead of handling perhaps one case a day, we're handling 110, which I think is our record."

The commissioners remained unconvinced. They voted unanimously to authorize the purchase of the less expensive copier. Menges balked.

"I'm not interested in the 501. It doesn't do what I need it to do. It's no different than saying let's go back to quill pens. I'm not interested."

The county council is Menges' next step if he persists in seeking funding for the larger copy machine.

More from the April 17th Kokomo Tribune:
As expected, Howard Superior Court 1 Judge Bill Menges is taking his request for a Bizhub 601 copier to the Howard County Council. * * *

We don’t doubt that the council, which is composed of seven members (rather than three), could be more amenable to Menges’ desires.

But even if the council approves an additional appropriation for the copier, our understanding is that Menges will still have to go back to the commissioners for a purchase order before he can obtain the copier.

So who ultimately has the say over Menges’ copier? Does the fiscal/legislative body get to decide, or the executive body? All of the readers who remember the epic “stay in your lane” battle between former Kokomo Mayor Matt McKillip and the Kokomo Common Council, circa 2004, stay tuned. This won’t be Pacquiao vs. Mosely, but it might be close.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 17, 2011 10:35 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts