BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Cheektowaga Town Justice Dennis Delano has indicated he could return to the bench as early as May 19, according to News 4 sources. However, Cheektowaga town officials say they have had no direct contact with the judge and have no idea when he might return.
Delano has been off the job since February 25 for reasons that may be health related. He has continued to receive his annual salary of $74,960, but his work load has been picked up by Cheektowaga Town Justice Paul Piotrowski, who is said to be working seven days a week and some nights, and also running the drug court and domestic violence court in the town.
Cheektowaga Town Councilwoman Diane Benczkowki, who is the board’s liaison with the courts and police department, says Piotrowski “has stepped up to the plate.” Justice Piotrowski, she said, “has set records in revenue brought in through traffic court.” She says $14,000 came in during one recent night.
There had been a concern that revenues generated through court actions might diminish with one justice absent from the bench.
Judge Delano has not returned repeated calls by News 4. Before his 2010 election victory in Cheektowaga, he had received much notoriety while he was a Buffalo cold case detective. His efforts helped free Lynn DeJac and Anthony Copozzi from prison. DeJac had been wrongly convicted of murdering her daughter. She had served more than 13 years behind bars. Copozzi had served 22 years in prison for “bike path” rapes he did not commit.
Sources tell News 4 that a senior judge from another part of Erie County is prepared to step-in and help out, should Delano’s return be further delayed. The Town of Cheektowaga would to make a special request to the court system in order for that to happen. Administrative Judge Paula Feroleto of the Eighth Judicial District of State Supreme Court says a request has not yet been made.
Cheektowaga Town Prosecutor Melissa Reese, who has been assigned to cases before Judge Delano is now running for Delano’s seat. Unlike Judge Delano, she is an attorney, with 11 years experience. News 4 sources say Delano will not run against her.
Reese said, “I simply believe that I am the best qualified candidate and I decided to run.”
She faces a primary fight against Dennis Gorski, a former Erie County Executive and Assemblyman whose family comes from a long history of public service.
Cheektowaga officials are still anxiously awaiting to hear from Delano.
Diana Benczkowsk said, “We don’t need to know any specifics, if it’s health related or whatever, his family, personal. Just let us know you’re planning to come back. If you need another month, just let us know so we can plan.”