Constables are fighting with Pinal County over salaries and have now filed a lawsuit.
Claiming the Board of Supervisors did not follow the law when it set constable salaries in 2018, the suit, filed June 14, seeks restoration of lost income. At issue is the decrease in salary of three of the constable positions, “even though the gross workload was increasing.”
State statute requires supervisors to set salaries at a regular June meeting prior to the January commencement of term. The constables claim the board violated the law by not setting their salaries until August 2018, as a consent-agenda item after the Primary Election.
“We realized it had not been done for the new districts, so processed it at the August Board meeting,” County Manager Greg Stanley said. “The agenda was posted prior to the Primary Election, and Board approved it as posted.”
Last fall, the county consolidated eight precincts to six, renaming some of the precincts in the process. Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Court, for instance, became Western Pinal Justice Court just as Glenn Morrison took office as constable.
The county then lowered the salary of the highest-paid constables. The Western Pinal constable went from $61,208 to $50,029. The salary of the Casa Grande constable was lowered from $61,208 to $49,939. The salary of the Apache Junction constable dropped from $61,208 to $50,480. The salaries of all six constables now equal $300,000.
“The County’s action in setting the salaries was both unfair and illegal,” the suit claims, further emphasizing the constable positions have not received a raise since 2010.
Previously, the eight constable salaries combined for $321,000. Constables in the smallest precincts made as little as $13,050. Three of the constables made between $32,000 and $36,100. The small districts were combined or folded into a larger district to create the six current precincts.
Though only three constables are impacted by a salary decrease, including Morrison, all six signed onto the suit. Morrison deferred comment on the case. One of their attorneys, Stephen Tully, said they are seeking a raise in salary back to its original rate and back pay.
The state statute does not define a remedy when this section of the law is violated, but Tully said that is not unusual.
“Clearly, the legislators didn’t pass a law that is a violation but has no penalty, no enforcement,” he said.
When the Board of Supervisors approved its 2018-19 budget, it stipulated the six constable salaries combined not exceed $300,000. City Manager Greg Stanley noted increasing the total above $300,000 would require an amendment to the budget.
Tully said when talks with the county “didn’t go anywhere,” the constables opted to take their argument to court to make the county comply with the statute. “I imagine they’ll get it right next time.”