Raises approved for all constables but one

No increase for North Canyon constable, who faces job scrutiny



KINGMAN - While the five Mohave County constables didn't get the total raise amounts they were looking for last week, at least two were agreeable to what the Mohave County Board of Supervisors dished out to them instead.

The constables serving Kingman, Lake Havasu City, Bullhead City and Cerbat received a 2.5 percent increase in their salaries, which were each $55,654 annually.

That gives them a $1,391 raise, bringing their annual salaries to $57,045. The board did not raise the North Canyon constable's $11,055 annual salary because of concerns about job performance.

The last raise for the constables was January 2008.

"I'm happy to have something, but we were all hoping to get our wages closer to the other elected county officials," said Bullhead City Precinct Constable Mike Hamilton. "On a positive note, if you don't ask, you don't get. I love my job and wish the amount was more, but I'm still a happy constable."

The raises take effect in January and will last four years. According to state law, the constables' salaries must be set at a June meeting preceding a general election, which is Nov. 4 this year.

The maximum constable salary for precincts with 16,000 or more registered voters was increased by the Legislature this year from $61,000 to $67,000. The maximum salary for North Canyon remained $15,000.

Kingman Precinct Constable Mike Cobb petitioned the board Monday on behalf of the four lower-county constables to raise their salaries to $63,800, putting them on par with the county's lowest-paid elected officials, including the assessor, treasurer, recorder and the supervisors themselves.

Cobb said the constables serve processes, warrants and protection orders for justice of the peace courts and the public. They also fill in as bailiffs in the courts.

"Overall, the things we do are generally free and fall within the court system, which is not really a money generator for the county," said Cobb, also pleased with the final vote. "As part of our jobs, we go out and evict people from houses and seize property. It's very dangerous and we can be called on to do it at any hour of any day of the week during any month."

The Lake Havasu City Precinct constable is Robert Crabtree, and the Cerbat Precinct constable seat became vacant this week when Jean Bishop resigned after being named to replace Supervisor Joy Brotherton, District 4, who died May 19.

The board asked the Mohave County Sheriff's Office in February to investigate North Canyon Precinct Constable Travis Heaton for possible financial improprieties. The precinct includes Scenic, Littlefield, Beaver Dam, Desert Springs, Colorado City, Centennial Park, Cane Beds and Moccasin.

Over the nine years Heaton has been in office, he has only brought in $3,697.80 in processes served, while the county has invested $123,823.68 in Heaton's salary, computer, benefits and travel expenses in that same time. Heaton also failed to attend continuing education courses required by the state, and he has not filed reports on a monthly basis to the board's clerk. State law requires both.

Board Chairwoman Hildy Angius, District 2, suggested dropping Heaton's salary to $1,150 annually and splitting the remaining $10,000 between the other four constables instead of giving them an actual raise. But Supervisor Buster Johnson, District 3, said other county employees need raises before he would be willing to support any increase in funds for the constables.

Supervisor Steve Moss, District 5, made a motion to raise the four constables' salaries to $63,800, but it failed to receive a second. Moss said they deserve better compensation for the work they do, which often is free. Moss said the constables are a small-time version of law enforcement that has the ability to bring in some money but must meet the needs of other county offices.

"A lot of the constables' duties are not income-producing," said Moss. "If they serve an order of protection, they have to serve it for free. If they're called into court because the judge wants to have a guy with a gun and a badge standing there as a pseudo-bailiff, they could be there all day. That's not revenue-generating, but it does serve to keep the peace. The constables have never been considered a for-profit enterprise."

Supervisor Gary Watson, District 1, offered a motion for the 2.5 percent increase for the four lower-county constables, and none for North Canyon Precinct. Johnson voted against it.