Syracuse Municipal Violations Bureau to take effect this summer, freeing up work in law dept

May 9, 2018

Syracuse’s new corporation counsel said she is looking forward to the creation of a Municipal Violations Bureau to lighten the law department’s workload. The new bureau would be responsible for taking on less serious cases of code enforcement.

Syracuse Corporation Counsel Kristen Smith said the bureau would consist of administrative law judges who could review violations and issue fines. 

“We will take a whole body of violations out of the law department, so that we don’t have to go and clog up the docket in state and city court, leaving the law department to focus on the real serious problems, cases where there’s health and safety concerns, infestations, really serious external violations," Smith said. "We’ll be able to get to those a lot faster.”

Smith said there are hundreds of cases referred from code enforcement to the law department. She said it is impractical to take all of them to court.

"This bureau is going to make that a much more efficient process," Smith said. "Homeowners can expect more active enforcement. That's going to be good for the city."

The Municipal Violations Bureau was supposed to be up and running last year but Councilor Joe Carni said there were too many unanswered questions.

Now, the bureau, under the department of finance, is set to take effect in July.

It has an annual operating budget of around $150,000. Up to seven part-time administrative law judges could be hired, depending on the caseload. The Syracuse Industrial Development Agency is expected to cover the first year of expenses. Then, officials hope the bureau would be self-sustained by the increase in revenue from collecting on judgments.