City renews deal with county attorney for local prosecution, but at a lower priceApr 14, 2015 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer
Amid decreasing case volume, the City of Riverton has renewed its contract with Fremont County for prosecuting attorney services in the Riverton Municipal Court at a discount.
The five-year contract expired, and city staff revisited the monthly payments of $3,500 being paid for the county's services.
City administrator Steven Weaver told the Riverton City Council last week that in the last four years the city has averaged $180,000 in municipal court fines but expects to receive only about $120,000 in this fiscal year because there has been a decrease in activity in the court.
"As a result of the decrease in municipal court volume, the time required by our municipal judge, prosecutor and public defender has decreased substantially," Weaver read from his report.
When the old contract was signed, there was much more court activity, he said.
The municipal court administers the operation of the judicial branch of the city government, according to the ordinances adopted by the city council. Cases handled include misdemeanor complaints covered under city code that happen within city limits.
Weaver said Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun suggested increasing the monthly amount from $3,500 to $3,700 because there hadn't been in increase in several years. Previous contracts were negotiated so the city picks up half of the prosecuting attorney's salary for the time worked for the city.
But Weaver said average court volume over the past nine months has been 33.5 hours per month with the decrease in municipal court volume. So the city is
getting less than a quarter of the prosecutor's time. Based on the 33.5 hours, the city should be paying 20 percent of the salary, he contended
The council acknowledged the service provided to the city is valuable benefit.
"I think we have an excellent arrangement right now," said Riverton mayor Lars Baker. "There's considerable flexibility here between city court and county court depending on the nature of the offense."
He also said law enforcement is supportive of the current arrangement.
Council member Kyle Larson commented on the city paying close to 50 percent of the salary, but staff noted that court activity is unpredictable and varies throughout the year.
"So hours served is not necessarily hours being paid for?" Larson asked.
Baker agreed and said the contract is established under terms of "readiness to serve." If court volume jumps, then the representation still would be available.
The county attorney offered a new deal of $3,200 a month. The city attorney notified staff he could provide the services for $3,000 to $3,200 a month. If the city chose to contract out to a different attorney and pay $100 per hour, then the city would have to pay $3,350 a month for 33.5 hours of monthly work.
LeBrun validated the benefit the contract brings to the city and attorney's office.
"It allows us to have three full-time prosecutors here in Riverton, which carries a majority of our office case load," Lebrun said. "Without this contract we probably would have two."
He said communication with the city is excellent.
Timothy Hancock who has been the deputy county attorney for Riverton for almost two and a half years, said he strives to represent the city well.
"Anytime I'm making decisions I'm considering how it's going to affect the city," he said. "I'm considering alternatives to city prosecution."
He said that he decides where a case could best be served, reviews citations, and communicates regularly with the Riverton Police Department.
The city renewed the contract at the $3,200 monthly figure.