UPDATE 3pm: Added details about supervision of the Public Defender role.
Kathy Field was dismissed Monday as La Paz County’s Public Defender after the Board of Supervisors emerged from an executive session on the topic of her employment.
In a 2-1 decision, with dissent from Supervisor Holly Irwin, the majority of the Board voted to let Field go from the office she was appointed to a few years ago. No public reasons were given, with Minor telling Parker Live afterward that board members must be careful not to reveal details from executive sessions.
Irwin said publicly that she disagreed with the decision, saying, “I’m not sure why this is happening this way,” since most personnel decisions are made by the County Administrator. “I’m sure just to put it all out there, I guess.”
She called Field’s performance in the job “outstanding” and said she felt the decision was “just going after somebody”.
Field is the wife of former County Administrator Dan Field, who was terminated on December 19th after his job performance had become a topic of the 2016 election. Supervisor Duce Minor promised to dismiss Field if elected, joining DL Wilson who had attempted to do so in 2015, citing the financial state of the County as part of Field’s legacy as Administrator.
Because of a potential conflict of interest, supervision of the Public Defender was changed to the Board of Supervisors so that it would not fall to Field’s husband Dan when he was County Administrator, which may be the reason it was a Board action Monday.
Reports to Parker Live suggest that there is a growing movement in favor of disbanding the Public Defender’s Office, opting instead for contracting with individual attorneys and cutting the costs associated with a permanent office and administration. Multiple people have referenced such an idea as a cost-saving measure for a county in crisis, with the potential to save six figures in expenditure. But it would rely on the availability of local counsel, with savings decreasing when the County has to go outside La Paz County for attorneys.
Field’s health benefits will continue until June 30th “if allowed by law”, and her duties will be temporarily assigned to Arthur Higgs, her deputy.
In other personnel-related County news, the Board has voted unanimously to extend an offer of employment to a permanent County Administrator who, if accepted, would be starting on the job in approximately one month. Robert Sivick has experience managing cities and counties, and is an attorney by background. To bridge the gap, the contract with the firm that provided Robert Smith as Interim County Administrator was extended for another 30 days.