City rejects new magistrate contract

City council rejects requested salary increase; future contract in limbo

Judge Rob Krombeen holds a mock trial for the Classical Coversations homeschool group in Williams April 26.

Photo by Wendy Howell.

Judge Rob Krombeen holds a mock trial for the Classical Coversations homeschool group in Williams April 26.

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — The Williams City Council rejected a requested salary increase by Judge Rob Krombeen for city magistrate duties at its Dec. 13 meeting.

Krombeen, who serves as both magistrate for the city of Williams and as justice of the peace for Coconino County, presented a new employee agreement to the city with a proposed salary that is an 82 percent increase from his current salary. Krombeen’s current employee agreement expires Dec. 31.

The current magistrate salary is $1,331 per month for service to the city. Krombeen proposed a new monthly salary of $2,600 per month, or $31,200 per year.

According to City Finance Director Keith Buonocore, Krombeen is contracted for 10 hours work per week for the city at an hourly rate of $33.28. That equates to $665.60 per pay period, or $17,305 for the calendar year for the work done for the Municipal Court.

In his presentation to the city, Krombeen justified the need for a salary increase based on an increase in work load and also on comparable salaries of pro-tem judges.

“I believe this position has been underfunded and for that matter somewhat underappreciated for many years,” he said. “Well before I took office.”

He said the number of labor intensive cases filed in the Municipal Court have increased dramatically over the past four years. He provided data that showed his case load has increased from 507 cases in 2012 to 909 cases in 2017.

Krombeen also said there is a significant disparity between his hourly rate and the rate paid to pro-tem judges who cover the court in his absence.

“I do consider the proposal I made to the city to be realistic and aligned with what I believe the level, quality and amount of service I provide to the city,” Krombeen said.

City councilman Lee Payne questioned Krombeen about the source of court case data. He said the data from the Williams Police Department shows 569 cases in 2017, compared to the 909 cases Krombeen presented.

“I was reading over all this after we had spoken and I said ‘Man what’s going on in this town?’” he said.

Krombeen said the numbers could vary because the data he presented came from the Arizona Administrative Office of the Courts.

“Some cases the Chief (Police Chief Herman Nixon) may count as one case, but we may end up with three counts filed,” he said. “The state may be counting those differently than when the chief packages them up.”

Councilman Frank McNelly said the operation of the Municipal Court is expensive, and many people are unaware of the costs.

“The city paid $250,000 for a lease on the county building in 2014 - that is a $15,000 lease per year,” he said. “The city pays for any prosecutors and defense attorneys for magistrate court, and pays for part of the staffing.”

Payne said the council is closely evaluating the costs of the Municipal Court.

“The IGA (intergovernmental agreement) is $73,130, and it goes up 3 percent every year,” Payne said. “So in 2030 we’ll be up to almost $102,000 — so you can see why we are looking at every dollar.”

Payne said one of his concerns with the Municipal Court is the lack of accountability.

“I wouldn’t know if you were doing four hours or 20 hours,” Payne said. “That’s not to attack your integrity — I’m just trying to find out what’s going on.”

Krombeen said it was difficult to track hours as the Municipal Court cases are often intermingled with Justice Court cases. He also said he is on-call 24 hours per day for search warrants and emergency orders of protection.

The council was mixed on how to proceed with the proposed employee agreement and the approaching end to Krombeen’s current employee agreement.

Councilman Doc Wurgler asked if the council could table the discussion until January, but Mayor John Moore said a decision had to be made regarding the proposal before moving forward.

“I don’t think you can table it once the contract has gone away,” he said.

The council unanimously voted to reject the proposal, although several on the council suggested there may be further discussions with Krombeen.

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