This year's race for town justice include two Democratic candidates who previously ran against each other in the 2009 Democratic primary; Todd Gabor and David Menken. Back then, Menken defeated Gabor with the majority vote. Menken went on to run against Erik Jacobsen in the general election, narrowly losing to Jacobsen by 36 votes. Patch met with both candidates for Town Justice and asked the same questions of each. Gabor has been endorsed by the Bedford Republican Committee and the Bedford Democratic Committee.
Todd Gabor has a private law practice and has nearly 30 years of legal experience. He has also served as a court-appointed arbitrator in Nassau County for 16 years. Gabor has been a Little League coach in Bedford since 2008 and has lived in Bedford for 16 years with his wife Shawn and their two children.
David Menken David Menken is a partner at the White Plains law firm of McCarthy Fingar and has almost 30 years of legal experience. He has served on the Bedford Zoning Board of Appeals since 2003 and is its current chairman. He is also President of the Bedford Village Fire Department and serves as an active firefighter and EMT. Menken is also 1st Vice Chair of the Westchester County Charter Revision Committee and is a former Mount Kisco Village Attorney. Menken lives in Bedford Village with his wife, Julie, and two college-aged children.
Click here to read part I of the Patch Q&A where candidates discussed their reasons for running and qualifications for the position.
Patch: Based on your current understanding of the Bedford court, what challenges would you face if you were elected?
Gabor: I hear that congestion for the court and a high volume of cases are main challenges. I also think people are also afraid of the courts, perhaps afraid to pursue the kinds of small claims they're eligible for because they don’t know the full offerings of our courts.
Menken: I have heard that some people are criticizing the Bedford court for its alleged backlog, particularly with respect to vehicle and traffic matters. My understanding is that cases were backed up several years ago, but have not been backed up for the past 3 years. Some vehicle and traffic trials may be delayed due to officers or troopers unable to appear in court because of sick or disability leave, but I am not aware of any matters that have been delayed without such a reason.
Patch: Do you have ideas for improving upon court systems or procedures or other ideas you'd put into place?
Gabor: One of my ideas I actually heard from a resident I met while campaigning door-to-door. Why not use our local colleges and universities to access today's young brilliant minds—perhaps in MBA programs or relevant graduate programs—and use our future leaders to help find solutions to today's court issues? We could develop class projects based upon real-life problems. To de-mystify courts for residents, I would love to offer a column in local news outlets called "From the Bench,” where I could talk about cases—generally speaking, with no names to protect privacy—and talk about a range of cases, from humorous to serious DWI penalties. I think it could offer some transparency for residents who want to know more about court and recourse for things that happen.
Menken: I believe that anyone who comes with a “plan” to reform the court, without actually having experience in the court or as a judge or court administrator, arguably does not have information or expertise sufficient to determine the changes which actually need to be made. I certainly would support any initiatives that would result in modernization and reform of the Bedford Justice Court to meet the objectives of the New York Office of Court Administration Action Plan, (published in 2006 and updated in 2008). Several reforms have been discussed to make the court more efficient, for example, reducing vehicle and traffic court sessions from bi-weekly to weekly; the cost could put pressure on the Town’s budget in a tax cap environment. Another idea is to take prosecution of V&T offenses away from the police and give it to the Town Prosecutor, but I understand that issues including police union matters (i.e., overtime) come into play in the regard.
Patch: Is there anything else you want to add?
Gabor: What I think is really important in this race, is that a Democrat is supported by the Reppublican party. I’m happy to say the Republicans selected the most qualified individual. Because for me it is truly a non-partisan position. For local elections, I look at who is most qualified, who has the experience.
Menken: I moved from Mt. Kisco to Bedford over ten years ago. The first thing I did was ask (former supervisor) John Dinin to find something for me to do in town to help me become a part of the community. He asked me to join the zoning board and my appointment was approved by an all-Republican board. I also joined the Bedford Village Fire Department. I made a lot of friends and felt that I was contributing to community in a way I hadn’t known I could do before. I feel good about what I do here and that I’ve helped people here as an emergency medical technician and a firefighter. I like that this is a small town and you get to help here. I hope people support me based on my experience and ten years of active community services.