By CHRIS EBERHART
Eastchester Town Councilman Fred Salanitro, a Republican, took his second oath of office in the past 10 months after being appointed to a vacant town justice position following Judge Domenick Porco’s resignation at the beginning of October.
The now-former councilman, who was re-elected to a second term in an uncontested race last November and took his oath of office back in January, was surrounded by his family as he was sworn in as Eastchester’s newest justice during the Oct. 21 Town Council meeting.
Salanitro, 52, is a practicing attorney in the Bronx specializing in the areas of personal injury, real estate, wills and litigation and said for any attorney, becoming a judge is “something you always keep in the back of your mind.”
“As an attorney, [becoming a judge] is something that you always consider, and it’s always fascinated me, personally,” Salanitro said. “You never know when an opportunity like this will present itself, and I couldn’t let it pass.”
Salanitro joins Judge Janet Madonia Calano, a Republican, who was appointed in 2011 to fill a vacancy left behind by the retirement of Republican Judge James Connors. She was re-elected the following year and stands as the first female justice in Eastchester history.
Salanitro’s annual pay will jump from $15,831 as a town board member to $42,545 as a town justice. Both positions are considered part time.
The all-Republican Town Council interviewed candidates for the vacant judge position and ultimately decided to appoint Salanitro to the position because of his extensive background in trial work as an attorney, Eastchester Town Supervisor Anthony Colavita, a Republican, said.
“Fred [Salanitro] impressed us in the interview, and he has an impressive resume and a great character,” Colavita said. “I’ve worked with Fred personally, and he’s an exceptional attorney and he’s going to be a great judge.”
Salanitro’s predecessor, Porco, was forced to resign from the position as part of a settlement with the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which has been investigating the 22-year town justice since April after receiving a complaint that charged Porco with not overseeing and approving rulings of vehicle and traffic law cases from 2009 to August 2012.
The complaint also states some of the records of vehicle and traffic law cases produced by Porco from June 2012 were “deficient and raised questions as to whether and when [Porco] had approved dispositions in such cases.”
If the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct found Porco to be guilty of these allegations, the commission would have removed the town justice from his post. Instead, Porco agreed to a settlement that forced him to resign and forbids him to seek or accept judicial office in the future.
The town justice position expires at the end of 2015, and Salanitro said he intends on running for re-election next year. As for the now vacant council seat, Colavita said the board is going to fill the role “sooner rather than later.”
“We want to make sure we get someone in before the budget process begins, so we’re already interviewing candidates and we’ll select someone shortly,” Colavita said.
He said he plans on announcing a new candidate by the Nov. 18 Town Council meeting. In order to retain the seat, whoever appointed would have to run in a special election next November to
carry out the remainder of Salanitro’s unexpired term, which expires in 2017.