Support, history of Genesee Justice motivated director to ensure division saved
Ed Minardo will be out of a job come Jan. 1, but Genesee Justice will carry on.
"It was certainly in my mind, 'Not on my watch,'" Minardo said after learning that County Manager Jay Gsell would recommend to the legislature that Minardo's plan to cut staff hours and eliminate his own job be approved.
And the legislature did just that Monday evening.
"I didn't want to see Genesee Justice and the great history of Judge Call (former Sheriff Doug Call) and Dennis (Wittman, founding GJ director), and the love and caring they put into it, evaporate into a memory."
Minardo said he was also motivated by the firm support Genesee Justice received from the legal community, including defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges.
"That's one of the things that made me fight so hard," Minardo said. "There was an unprecedented outpouring of support from what is supposed to be a formal legal community. The were going outside their comfort zones to express appreciation for the programs we run and the good work of our staff."
With approval of the labor union representing staff at Genesee Justice signing off on the plan to reduce work ours, Gsell was apparently able to find enough cost savings to make Minardo's plan "budget neutral," meaning it won't increase expenses for the county.
When Gsell first presented his draft budget to the legislature, it called for closing Genesee Justice as a division of the Sheriff's Office and moving many of its functions to the probation department.
At a public hearing, members of the legal community and crime victims assisted by Genesee Justice came forward and encouraged the legislature to protect the pioneering restorative justice program.
Next up for Minardo: Put together a non-profit foundation that will raise money to fill the budget gap for full Genesee Justice operations, including reinstating his job as director.