Williams Magistrate Krombeen to continue as independent contractor

Williams City Councilman Jim Wurgler discusses whether the city of Williams should reimburse Canyon Motel and RV Park owner Kevin Young for lost revenue after city crews turned off his water to work on  water infrastructure. Marissa Freireich/WGCN

Williams City Councilman Jim Wurgler discusses whether the city of Williams should reimburse Canyon Motel and RV Park owner Kevin Young for lost revenue after city crews turned off his water to work on water infrastructure. Marissa Freireich/WGCN

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Magistrate Rob Krombeen will continue to work as an independent contractor rather than as a regular part time employee, the Williams City Council decided at its March 28 meeting.

With little discussion, councilman Craig Fritsinger made a motion that the magistrate continue working as an independent contractor, with the term of his contract running concurrently with his justice of the peace term.

The justice of the peace is elected to four-year terms, and Krombeen is currently two years into that term.

The council unanimously approved the motion, with vice mayor Don Dent and councilman Frank McNelly recused from the vote and discussion.

After the meeting, Fritsinger said the magistrate has been an independent contractor for the past 20 years or so.

"The way I look at it is, don't upset the apple cart right now, let's keep it going," he said. "And then when the new elected term comes in, that's the time to discuss it and write a new contract or employee at that time."

Councilman Jim Wurgler agreed that timing was a factor in his decision.

"We felt that we did not have a complete understanding of the role that is between magistrate and justice of the peace and the fact that the justice of the peace is voted in for a period of four years and the magistrate is an appointed position and that we were being asked to make a decision sort of in the middle of an elected term," he said after the meeting. "So we just were not comfortable moving in another direction at this point."

In a March 14 staff report to the mayor and council, City Manager Brandon Buchanan recommended that the magistrate and pro-tem judges be designated as part time, regular status employees with supplemental employment agreements that limit benefits.

Krombeen had been working as an independent contractor under his previous contract, which expired in December 2012. At the March 14 council meeting, Krombeen expressed concern about serving as an independent contractor without insurance to protect him from liabilities.

In an email, Krombeen gave the following statement about the council's decision: "I support the decision of the council, and look forward to working with the City Attorney to draft the details of my contract for the services provided to the Municipal Court."

Council members tabled the issue at their March 14 meeting, saying they needed more information.

In other council news, the council made no decision regarding the reimbursement of expenses when the city turns off water service. Kevin Young, owner of the Canyon Motel and RV Park, brought up the issue during the public participation portion of the March 14 meeting.

Young told the council at that meeting that the previous week, the city had turned off his water to do some work. His staff received about 10 minutes of notice. The work, which was supposed to take less than an hour, ended up taking about six hours to fix.

"Needless to say we had a lot of upset guests," he said.

One customer asked for a refund of $169.48, which Young granted.

"At this time of year, when first of all you don't have any cash flow and no people coming in, every individual guest is very important," he said at the March 14 meeting. "So for us to give the money back that we had just made, it was tough on us."

Young asked the city to reimburse him for the amount he refunded his dissatisfied customer.

At the March 28 meeting, Mayor John Moore said the city has a policy in place to not reimburse people, but the council could work with that policy.

Wurgler asked about the liabilities the city may experience for reimbursing Young.

"If you are not operating on a consistent standard you risk claims for discrimination and treating folks differently," said Kellie Peterson, the city attorney.

Wurgler said that was too big of a risk to the city.

"Kevin, I will personally write you a check for $169," he said. "This is not worth the effort that is being involved, and it's certainly not worth opening up the city to liability"

Dent agreed, saying the council's decision had larger implications.

"Think of all the families that were put out that evening and either had to go out and get dinner because they didn't have water at dinner time," he said. "If we write a check to you, we'll have 100 requests tomorrow."

Young said he could have told his customers if the city had used door hangers to notify homes and businesses that they would be affected by the work.

Moore said the city does have a policy to notify people if the water will be turned off for an extended period of time, but that this project took longer than anticipated.

Wurgler personally apologized for the difficulties Young encountered and directed staff to work on resolving the issue.

In other council news, the council unanimously appointed Brad Olson, Walter Whiteman and Frank Drake to the Airport Advisory Committee. There is still one vacancy on the committee after Eric Savage stepped down.

The council also unanimously approved a property and liability insurance coverage renewal proposal from Travelers.

The city council met March 29 for a special meeting to interview a candidate for the finance director position. The candidate was Keith Buonocore, who is currently the senior auditor for the Lee County Clerk of Court in Fort Myers, Fla. The council voted to authorize Buchanan to offer Buonocore the position and negotiate pay.

Interim finance director Julie Walker will return to her previous position of accountant. She resigned from her interim finance director position at the Feb. 14 council meeting.

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