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Letter: Regarding the Magistrate's contract

To the editor:

After reading last week’s article (Williams-Grand Canyon News) regarding the Magistrate’s Contract Proposal being rejected, I thought it would be helpful to all sides, and to the public, if I would weigh in. I do have some standing to do this, since I held the position for 20 years, and my dad held the position for six years, even though there were others who were there between my dad and myself.

I’ve heard people say that I never made an issue of pay during my 20 years. That is just not the case. I saw the inequity of the Magistrate’s contract from the start. Two years before I was to retire, I actually resigned as Magistrate because of the contract, only to reconsider, upon request. During my time there, my staff and I had found ways to save the city a ton of money with prisoner transports, technology and many other ways, but I found myself still what I considered to be underpaid for the work. Many more improvements have been made since my retirement, benefitting the city in financial and efficiency ways. I reconsidered my resignation, because I didn’t want my term to go out on a sour note. In hindsight, maybe I should have stayed and played hard ball a bit more. The problem wasn’t solved, and still isn’t today, so I take a portion of the blame for that. I knew at the time that if the city was forced to hire another Magistrate, it would be a very expensive thing for them to incur, and we would have to rework all of the facilities to accommodate another judge. It just didn’t make sense. Also, a Magistrate’s job is not just a position you can plug and play any person. A good judge has to have some unique ability and people skills. Not anyone can do that. For most of the past century, it has made the most sense to let the people vote for the person they felt was the best and most qualified for Justice of the Peace, then appoint that person to be Magistrate. Many communities our size do that as well, because it brings accountability with the public, and saves tons of tax dollars.

Now here is some perspective: Around 1984, my dad retired. At the time, he was making 833 dollars a month as city Magistrate. When I took over six years later, the amount was the same but the city had changed my status from “Employee,” to “Contract Professional,” which meant that I now had no employee benefits. The most I ever received was about $1,400 a month.

To put in comparison from 1984 to today; well, there is no comparison. You could buy a new Dodge Ram pickup for less than nine thousand bucks then! You could buy a brand new house for $86,000. The present Magistrate’s contract of $1,331 per month, is very underfunded, and needs to be reconsidered, in my opinion.

The city has the Magistrate at 10 hours a week. That is just not the case and never has been. The Magistrate is there for city business, at any time that the county (Justice of the Peace) business is going on. Also, most people don’t consider that a small town judge has to be available and on call, 24/7, or have coverage when they are out of town or sick. There is much more to it than 10 hours a week. But even if you look at 10 hours a week, I would challenge the City Council to look at the hourly contract of your other professional services. Any time any city hires professional services, it isn’t cheap, nor should it be. Nor should it be considered what a professional makes for their other contracts for other agencies.

In closing, I have no horse in this race, but only want a fair solution. The present judge, mayor or council don’t have any idea I’m writing this. As a taxpayer in the town, I’m glad we have people looking out for the public interest, and public funds. It’s a difficult job, and I wouldn’t want to do it. I have nothing but respect for those currently in office, and have a great relationship with them. This letter is only an informational piece, that hopefully can shed some light as to the history of the Magistrate’s contract, and an opinion from experience.

Bill Sutton

Former Williams magistrate

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