Following the dismissal last month of Marana Judge Jim West, the town council is expected to decide this week on how to replace the magistrate.
West, though, believes he was wrongfully terminated and has hired an attorney to look into possibly suing the town.
“I’m going to be consulting with a labor law attorney regarding all my legal options at this point,” said West, who served in the magistrate position for six years.
Whether West sues the town doesn’t matter, according to Town Manager Mike Reuwsaat. The threatened litigation would have no bearing upon how a replacement judge is chosen.
In the meantime, officials enlisted the town’s seven-person roster of pro tempore judges to preside over the court and asked Arizona Superior Court Judge Jan Kearney to oversee day-to-day operations, according to Assistant Town Manager Deb Thalasitis.
In a 6-0 decision, the town council voted on April 29 to fire West over the magistrate’s alleged “retaliatory conduct” against another court employee.
Citing attorney-client privilege, town officials would not elaborate on what the conduct may have been, the identity of the employee allegedly retaliated against or what position in the court that person holds.
The Marana Municipal Court employs about a dozen people, Reuwsaat said.
The Arizona Judicial Commission in February reprimanded West for two ethics violations he committed late last year.
On April 24, town officials learned West allegedly retaliated against the court clerk who aided the ethics investigation.
West denied that any retaliation took place, calling his situation a case of office politics.
“They were going on the basis of an appearance, not that it was ever proved,” the former Marana magistrate said.
The council on April 29 met behind closed doors for more than an hour with West to discuss the matter.
Afterwards, in a public session, council members swiftly voted to immediately void the judge’s contract.
As far as town officials were concerned no further action would be taken against West, Reuwsaat said.
On April 8, the council had voted 5-2 to extend West’s contract, which was to expire June 30.
“Had this incident occurred during consideration of his reappointment, it would have been a significant factor in the council’s decision,” Reuwsaat said in a statement released immediately following the council’s vote to fire West.