Saturday, July 31, 2004

Village dissolved by order of court

New Rome noted for its speed trap

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - A tiny village notorious for a speedtrap that raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars in traffic fines every year has been ordered dissolved by a Franklin County judge.

The Court of Common Pleas sided with Attorney General Jim Petro Friday and agreed the Village of New Rome, located on the western edge of Columbus, has been operating illegally.

A recently passed law allows the state to seek dissolution of villages of fewer than 150 people if the state auditor finds a pattern of wrongdoing or incompetence in the village's operation. Village attorneys have admitted the town has fewer than 150 people, Judge David Cain wrote in his ruling.

The village also admitted it did not pass a tax budget in 2004 and failed to follow election laws.

Defense lawyers had argued that the statute allowing the state to dissolve a village violates a portion of Ohio's constitution that allows municipalities to govern themselves, according to court documents.

But Cain wrote that the people themselves chose to dissolve the village by allowing elected offices to stay vacant and by breaking other state laws. "The corporate powers have already been surrendered. The body is already dead," Cain wrote. "The statute merely provides for a decent burial."

A spokesman for the Attorney General's office said Petro was pleased with the decision. He also said motorists with outstanding traffic violations can appeal them at Franklin County Municipal Court.

The speedtrap was located on a 1,000-foot stretch of U.S. 40 where the speed limit drops by 10 mph. People were ticketed and even arrested for the most minor infractions, like a broken taillight, said the village's former attorney, Kinsley Nyce. Messages seeking comment were left at the homes of Connie Tucker, the village's most recent mayor, and Nelson Genshaft, an attorney for the village.

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