Outgoing town councilor named LP village justice

LAKE PLACID — The village has appointed a new justice, but the decision wasn’t unanimous.

At the board’s meeting Monday, two trustees voted to affirm Mayor Craig Randall’s appointment of North Elba town Councilman Bob Miller to fill the village justice vacancy left by David Chapman’s departure last month. But two trustees voted to reject that appointment. One of them, Jason Leon, cited concerns that Miller’s ties to the local real estate agency Merrill L. Thomas could become an issue if the board adopts regulations restricting short-term vacation rentals that could shuttle violators through the village court.

“I don’t feel very comfortable with him as an appointment,” Leon said Monday. “He’s going to be inundated, most likely, with these kinds of cases.”

Leon characterized Miller as a “specialist” in short-term vacation rentals, but Miller said that isn’t true.

While he is a real estate broker — not employed by Merrill L. Thomas, but with his license there — Miller said he doesn’t deal with rentals.

“I don’t handle rentals. I have nothing to do with rentals. I handle sales,” he said. “I don’t buy into Jason’s logic. If there’s an issue where there’s truly a conflict of interest, you don’t put yourself in that position. Your job is to do the best you can, and that’s my intention.”

Miller was in law enforcement for 25 years before moving into real estate. He has experience with Penal Law through his 11 years as a weapons training officer at the Adirondack Correctional Facility in Ray Brook.

“I’m not taking this job for my own purposes,” Miller said. “I’m taking this job because I love this community. I felt I could help out.”

Leon said Monday he would “rather have Dean (Dietrich) do it.”

Dietrich, a North Elba town justice, has been filling in as the village’s lone justice since Chapman’s departure. At the board’s meeting that night, they unanimously approved a $2,000 payment to Dietrich for his service as an interim justice.

Randall said Miller, who declined to run for reelection to the town council this year, was the lone candidate who stepped up to fill the village justice seat. Randall said that between the town and the village, the courts currently have 100 cases on the docket, which he argued is more than one justice should have to handle alone.

Leon asked that the board put off Miller’s appointment until they can get more information about him, but Randall pushed back against that request. He reiterated that he was appointing Miller and asked that the board take a vote to reaffirm his appointment.

The board split on the appointment, with Leon and Trustee Scott Monroe voting no and Trustees Peter Holderied and Art Devlin voting yes. Randall cast the tie-breaking vote to ultimately approve Miller’s appointment.

In addition to his 25 years in law enforcement, Miller served two terms on the Lake Placid Central School District Board of Education and three terms on the North Elba Town Council. His appointment will be effective after he attends mandatory training, which is being offered sometime before the end of the year, according to Randall.