By Gail Peckler-Dziki

The Salem Lakes Village Board reversed a decision made last year to move from two municipal courts to one at the January 21 special board meeting.

Trustee Bill Hopkins and Ron Gandt were the only no votes against changing back to two municipal courts.

Last year, the board approved a resolution to allow court to end after Mike Langel’s term ended this April. Langel had been the Town of Salem municipal judge. The court that would have remained was that presided over by Merlene Engstrom, who served the Village of Silver Lake as municipal judge.

Bill Hopkins, who was a Silver Lake trustee at the time of the consolidation of Silver Lake and Salem and who won an election last year to remain on the Salem Lakes board, questioned the change.

“We voted unanimously last year to go to one municipal court, we all agreed,” he queried, “what has changed?”

Hopkins also pointed out that even though Langel would no longer be judge after this April, he could run for the seat in two years when that would be put on the ballot.

Trustee Mike Culat claimed he just didn’t know what he was voting for last year. “I needed more information.”

Hopkins said, “If you didn’t know what you were voting on, then you shouldn’t have voted.”

Village president Diann Tesar commented that making the change back to two municipal courts was discussed and tabled a couple months ago and the board needed to make the decision now.

The change to maintain the second court occurred too late to be added to the April ballot. The board will need to appoint someone to take the spot.

Both municipal judge courts will continue to operate for two years and the second court will end when the other court is up for election.

The appointment, which is temporary, will require a special election at a later date to determine a permanent municipal judge.


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