COTTONWOOD – Presiding City Magistrate A. Douglas LaSota was reappointed to a two-year term at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, but it was not an effortless decision.
The item had originally been tabled at a previous council meeting. Mayor Tim Elinski said after looking over information, and having conversations with other municipal courts, he saw opportunities to run the court more efficiently.
He said he was inclined to not reappoint Judge LaSota.
Elinski said it had nothing to do with Judge LaSota personally.
Council member Deb Althouse said she thought information would be presented and discussed before a decision was made.
She said she didn’t have all of the information other council members had. Council member Karen Pfeifer echoed Althouse, and said a few people have been kept in the dark on some information.
Elinksi said that was a fair statement, but felt it was unfair to keep Judge LaSota holding over.
Judge LaSota then addressed the council, and said he was willing to hold over if necessary. He added that there seemed to be a lack of transparency.
It was stated that Council member Tosca Henry was expected to come forward and present information to the council.
Henry said she spent considerable time exploring other options. It is a multi-month conversation, she said, explaining the complexity of the situation.
After more back and forth conversation, Vice Mayor Ruben Jauregui suggested that council go into executive session.
When council returned, Jauregui made a motion to reappoint Judge LaSota, with no raise, for a two-year term that expires April 13, 2019.
It was approved by a 4-3 vote, with dissenting votes from Elinksi, Henry, and Council member Kyla Allen.
Jauregui, Pfeifer, Althouse, and Council member Linda Norman voted in favor.
By statute and City Code, the Presiding Magistrate oversees, manages and administers the Cottonwood Municipal Court as both a semi-autonomous division of City government, and a part of the integrated judicial system of the State of Arizona. Judge LaSota has served in this capacity since 2009, and has expressed his interest in continuing to serve.
Under current Arizona Supreme Court precedent governing the employment of presiding magistrates, the minimum term of appointment is two years.