Rare use for bailiffs raises rate question

NaugatuckCtTownSeal

NAUGATUCK — No one thought the borough had any use for a bailiff.

So, when it came up, the Board of Mayor and Burgesses didn’t approve any money to pay for bailiffs.

Borough voters elected six bailiffs in November, but many of those voters likely didn’t know what a bailiff actually does.

Then, two would-be burgess candidates came within 22 votes of each other in the race for the last seat on the board, necessitating a recount.

Louise Sheedy, Democratic registrar of voters, had to issue a summons for poll workers to return for the recount a week after the election. In the past, police officers had fulfilled the duty of delivering such notices, but this time police said they couldn’t do it.

“I suppose they do have other things they have to do,” Sheedy said.

She didn’t have time to mail the summonses because of the timeline for a recount mandated by the state.

It was a dark and rainy night, and someone suggested that a bailiff could do the job. Sheedy remembered using a bailiff once, many years ago, so she thought, “why not?”

According to town charter, a bailiff wields power similar to a constable. Bailiffs can serve notices of the orders of the mayor and burgesses when directed by the borough clerk. The mayor and burgesses determine the compensation for serving those notices.

“We had no idea how much to charge,” Sheedy said.

She couldn’t wait for the borough to set a fee, so Sheedy ended up hand-delivering the notices herself.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” she said. “I wanted to make sure they got it.”

Following that incident, the discussion came up again — should the borough board set pay rates for bailiffs?

Mayor Robert Mezzo said he doesn’t remember ever using a bailiff for borough business, but he said bailiffs can and do serve papers in various legal proceedings for private attorneys.

Mezzo said he can’t think of any reason the borough would want to use a bailiff, since they’re not required to fulfill any official duties.

Borough officials are looking into whether they have to set a rate.

Seth Bronko, who was elected to his first term as bailiff in November, said he hasn’t performed any duties in his new position.

He said he stepped up for the position because the Republican Party needed a candidate.

Bronko said he knew that the bailiffs’ services were usually passed off to the police department, but he wasn’t aware of when the last time the borough actually used a bailiff. According to charter, many of the documents that a bailiff delivers can also be delivered by the mayor, burgesses, police, clerk or “indifferent freeholder.”

Bronko said he hasn’t been contacted by any attorneys.

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