Town Board approves raise for unfilled justice court job

The salary for the newly created position of Southold Town Justice Court director is getting bumped up before the job is ever filled.

After receiving little interest from qualified civil service candidates at a lower pay scale, town officials said, the Town Board unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday increasing the starting salary for the position from $63,000 to $80,000. 

“We have no interest from qualified parties at that [lower] pay scale,” Supervisor Scott Russell said during Tuesday’s board meeting.

The hope is that the higher wage will generate more interest among more qualified candidates, he said, adding that only two people applied for the position, with both lacking the necessary experience.

“They did not have the qualifications to run a justice court,” he said. “The idea is to give [the court justices] a hands on director to be there 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. as needed”

The board voted unanimously in April to create the position of Justice Court director in order to “keep all their options on the table,” after former Southold Town senior court clerk Christine Stulsky resigned amid an investigation into the theft of money from the court.

The position’s civil service base salary is now set at $80,000 and would increase to more than $94,000 after five years. The previous salary was approved at $63,000 and would have increased to nearly $74,000 in five years.

At least three residents expressed concern about the salary increase at Tuesday’s meeting, asking exactly what the qualifications for the position are and how the job would differ from other court positions that are already filled.

Noting that the court already has four part-time clerks, resident Benja Schwartz asked if their jobs could be evaluated further before adding a new position into the mix.

“It’s nice to know what the mix is made of [already],” he said.

Mr. Russell said, “There is a unique set of circumstances [in the justice court] that needs to be addressed affirmatively by this town.”

East Marion resident Linda Goldsmith, a member of the Oysterponds school board, called the salary increase unnecessary, saying it was possible “to find people to work, and good people to work,” at the lower salary.

She asked if the board had considered hiring a qualified candidate contingent upon their passing the civil service test, adding that she believes there are several local residents who might be interested in the position.

“You might not have had to raise the salary,” she said. “There are people in town looking to work.”

Mr. Russell said Monday that the Town Board has no immediate plans to fill the position, but board members are currently reviewing applications.

The Justice Court director would be responsible for collecting, depositing and recording all justice court fines, fees and bail payments, the supervisor has said. The director would also oversee maintenance of court records, prepare monthly reports for the state comptroller and assist the town justices in helping the supervisor prepare his proposed annual budget.

In March, the Town Board accepted the resignation of Ms. Stulsky, who, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, is suspected of stealing “a substantial amount of money” while serving as the senior justice court clerk.

Ms. Stulsky’s duties have since been assumed by other Justice Court employees and a full audit of the court is underway.

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