September 20, 2006 - The town of Marana soon could have two of three key staff positions filled.

The town last week sent a letter in the mail offering its finance director position to one of four finalists, but it will not reveal to whom the offer was made until the candidate responds. Twelve people applied for the job and a town committee narrowed the list down to four and interviewed them.

The finalists are Maricopa County Controller Douglas Hill, Tucson Accounting Administrator Michael Mason, Tucson Risk Manager Joel Peterson and Avondale Controller Erik Montague.

The four were interviewed by a panel consisting of town managers, Marana Human Resources Director Regina Fleming and representatives from the University of Arizona and the town's bonding firm Stone & Youngberg. Two town employees applied for the position but were not interviewed.

Marana has gone more than two months without a finance director. Former director Roy Cuaron left in June to take a job as controller for the Pima Association of Governments, where he oversees the Regional Transportation Authority's $2 billion-dollar, 20-year plan for road improvements. Cuaron had worked for Marana since 1991.

The town in the coming months will fill two other key positions, both recently created.

The Town Council when it OK'd the town budget earlier this year approved an assistant police chief position and 14 people applied for the job.

A committee consisting of Fleming, town council members Patti Comerford and Bob Allen, who is a former Tucson cop, Marana Police Chief Richard Viduarri, UA Police Chief Anthony Daykin and Oro Valley Police Chief Dan Sharp interviewed the four finalists.

Marana Lt. Joe Carrasco and patrol officer Robert Bereiter both applied for the position. Carrasco has been with the department for more than 20 years. Bereiter has worked in the department for about two years but has extensive experience in administration and training, Vidaurri said.

The committee also interviewed Pima Community College Interim Police Chief Barbara Harris and Gary Dhaemers, who oversees Pima County Attorney Office's 88-Crime hotline. Since its inception in 1980, the program has given more than $777,000 in rewards for tips leading to arrests.

The hiring committee decided to offer the job to Harris, after completion of a background check.

If she accepts the position, Harris will make $85,000 or more a year as the second-in-command to Viduarri.

"We had really good, qualified candidates," the chief said. "Any would make a good assistant chief."

The department has 75 sworn officers and the town council approved nine new officer positions in June.

The number of crimes committed in Marana has fluctuated since 1997, mostly increasing along with the town's population. The department handled 171 car thefts last year, almost 50 more than in 2004.

Officers made 762 arrests last year, compared to 729 in 2004. Through June of this year, officers had arrested 221 adults and 183 juveniles.

The town also will add a fourth attorney to its legal department. Just four years ago, the town employed none. Cassidy, a former Oro Valley and Pima County attorney, in 2003 became Marana's first in-house lawyer.

The Marana Municipal Court's case-

load has increased more than 30 percent over the past few years, prompting the town to hire its own prosecutor in May 2005. A former Tucson city prosecutor and attorney in the city school district's legal department, Jane Fairall became the town's first in-house prosecutor.

The town previously paid the Hochuli & Benavidez law firm to prosecute cases. The firm acted as both town attorney and town prosecutor, services that cost the town more than $350,000 a year.

The Marana court handles civil traffic violations, misdemeanor crimes and breaches of town ordinances, including animal and noise violations. The court issues orders of protection, injunctions against harassment and marriage licenses.

The town budgeted $571,411 this fiscal year for its legal department and $729,080 for its court.

The court's caseload has increased from 6,038 in fiscal 2001 to more than 9,000 cases in fiscal 2005.

Marana now has two attorneys, an attorney-to-be and an opening for assistant town attorney, who will report to Cassidy.

Cassidy makes $127,157 a year, Fairall $87,412. The town in January hired Laine Sklar as a law clerk fresh from law school. Sklar recently took the bar exam, and upon passing results, will become assistant town prosecutor at an annual salary of $49,164.

Cassidy's assistant will make up to $80,000 a year, according to a town advertisement posted on its Web site. The town council approved the assistant attorney position at its Sept. 5 meeting. The attorney will assist Cassidy with civil matters and provide legal advice to the council, town manager and all town departments.

The town will close the position's opening on Oct. 30, after it advertises in the Oct. 16 edition of Arizona Attorneys Magazine. Interviews will follow in November, Cassidy expects.

"I wanted to cast my net as wide as I can," he said. "We hope to get in on the front of the wave of work."

Cassidy's assistant will work a lot with development agreements, which take months to settle. The town continues to work on an agreement with Red Point Development for its huge 1,476-acre Cascada project, which will include more than 3,000 houses, businesses and offices.

The town recently put the agreement on two council agendas, removing it both times at the meetings.

"It takes some time to hammer out legal issues," Cassidy said. "Day to day, there's just 10 more things, and these things get put off. I hope with the new positions, we should be set for the foreseeable future."

The new attorney positions almost bring Marana in line with Oro Valley, which has five attorneys on staff - a town attorney, chief civil deputy town attorney, civil attorney, a town prosecutor and assistant prosecutor.

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