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Fri, Oct. 18

County attorney gets green light to hire two new lawyers

COTTONWOOD - The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a request from County Attorney Sheila Polk to hire two experienced attorneys and bring them in at higher pay grades than most new hires.

Chief Deputy County Attorney Dennis McGrane said they were necessary because, although "we have a great crew, they're just a little less experienced than we'd like."

McGrane said that over the past months, the office had lost "a number of (experienced) people" through job changes and retirements.

He said the office needed attorneys who could handle high-profile cases such as child molestation, rape, and capital murder cases.

The board approved the hiring of two attorneys:

• Paul Ahler, who has 33 years' experience and a lengthy resumé including work in Pinal and Maricopa counties as Criminal Trial Division Chief, Major Crimes Division Chief, and Charging Bureau Chief.

"He's a heavy hitter," McGrane said. "Mr. Ahler can go anywhere."

• Patti Wortman, who has been a prosecutor and supervisor in Gila County for 22 years and will be assigned to the Camp Verde courtroom. "She has attained a high ethical standard and reputation in the state," McGrane said.

Each will be hired at the level of Attorney IV at a salary of up to $110,000 a year.

In other action, the board unanimously approved Phil Bourdon's appointment from Interim County Administrator to the permanent position, a move that comes as no surprise, given the board's positive comments in previous meetings.

One unexpected change was the elimination of the "Call to the Public" section of the meetings. It allowed for members of the public to have three minutes to bring issues to the board's attention, with the caveat that the board could not comment nor act on them at that time.

Board Chairman Chip Davis said former Supervisor Carol Springer had introduced the concept unilaterally while she served as Chairman, and that he and Supervisor Tom Thurman had misgivings at the time.

"The reason is that we have five Supervisors with an open-door policy, we're very accessible, we attend public meetings, our staff retrieves phone calls and we encourage folks to get in touch with (their) Supervisor," Davis said. The fact that the board could not, by law, address the topics brought up in the meetings - because they were not on the agenda - limited the idea's effectiveness, he said.

"I think it's a much healthier situation if (members of the public) contact their Supervisor and discuss the issue" so it can be resolved, he added.

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