September 20, 2014

Elyria
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Youth offenders program on hold, awaits approval from prosecutor

AVON LAKE — Avon Lake officials won’t go ahead with a juvenile diversion program until the county prosecutor gives the OK.
On Monday, the City Council’s Safety Committee decided to withhold a recommendation on whether to establish a program in conjunction with Avon to handle low-level juvenile offenses because the plan hasn’t yet received the backing of county Prosecutor Dennis Will.
The committee last met with Will on June 6, when he told them he wanted to discuss the program further with the juvenile court judges.
Former Domestic Relations Judge Paulette Lilly, who has worked with officials to create the program and is slated to lead it, said Monday the city should go ahead — she thought Will has had enough time to review the program’s preliminary plans.
 “The program is never intended to be in its final stages at its inception,” she said. “There’s ample opportunity for Dennis Will before any child hits the door of the program.”
But Councilman Martin O’Donnell, who has promoted the program, said he thought it was in the best interest of all to move patiently since Domestic Relations / Juvenile Judge David Berta criticized the program, saying in March that he thought it was designed to create a job for Lilly, whom he beat in last fall’s election.
 “We don’t want to turn this into political football,” O’Donnell said.
Council President Greg Zilka said the Safety Committee will move expeditiously upon hearing back from the prosecutor’s office, but it possibly wouldn’t reconvene on the subject until Council returns from recess in mid-August.
Will couldn’t be reached for comment Monday night.
Contact Stephen Szucs at 329-7129 or sszucs@chroniclet.com.