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State Court To Decide Dispute Over Peekskill City Judge Appointment

Mayor-elect Frank Catalina is questioning the appointment of a city judge before new council members take office.
Mayor-elect Frank Catalina is questioning the appointment of a city judge before new council members take office. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Frank Catalina

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- A state Supreme Court judge will decide on Thursday who has the right to appoint a Peekskill judge.

The Peekskill Common Council was set to approve Reginald Johnson as the new Peekskill city judge, replacing William Maher, who has served for more than 25 years and whose 10-year term expires Dec. 31.

But Maher has gone to court claiming that the outgoing council had no authority to appoint a new judge and the new common council, inaugurated Jan. 1, should decide.

A state Supreme Court judge temporarily blocked the council from voting for Johnson.

Maher's lawyer, John Hersh, said traditionally the new council appoints a judge.

"The outgoing mayor cannot make appointments for future councils," Hersh said. "The council doesn't have the authority by law to make this appointment."

Mayor-elect Frank Catalina said outgoing Mayor Mary Foster is abusing her power as she prepares to leave office.

"She has been stacking boards and commissions since the election that binds the next administration," Catalina said. "Maher is a fine jurist with deep roots in the community. He has his finger on the pulse of the community."

Catalina claimed Johnson's appointment was political. Johnson has previously run for Common Council as a Democrat.

"Politics should be left out of judicial appointments," Catalina said. "I want to say I am shocked by her actions, but knowing her, not really."

Councilman Darren Rigger said previous judges had served for only a few years.

"I begrudge him no ill-will, but he has been there for more than 25 years," Rigger said. "We need a fresh look at our court system, there had been some complaints."

Rigger said they interviewed several candidates and found Johnson to be the best candidate. He said judges need a time of transition, and they wanted to have a new judge in place before Maher's term was up.

"I am disappointed Maher is suing the city and costing the taxpayers time and money because he didn't get picked," Rigger said. "On Jan. 1, the people of Peekskill would wake up with no city judge, that's extraordinary."

Hersh said the assistant judge would serve as city judge until the council appointed a new judge.

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