The appointment of Laramie’s newest magistrate caused a stir Tuesday at the Laramie City Council regular meeting.
Vice Mayor Jayne Pearce made a motion to move the appointment of Jodi Shea as magistrate, or alternate judge for Municipal Court, from the consent agenda to the regular agenda at the request of Councilor Klaus Hanson. The council approved the motion 8-0, with Councilor Dave Paulekas absent.
Shea was recommended by recently appointed Laramie Municipal Court Judge Dona Playton after current magistrate Mike Schilling submitted his letter of resignation. Laramie City Attorney Bob Southard said recommending new magistrates was required by Playton’s contract with the city.
After Schilling resigns, Laramie would be left with only two magistrates, and Playton requested the city keep at least three to ensure court can be held in her absence, city documents state.
The city allocates $30,000 annually for court-appointed attorneys and magistrates, according to city documents.
Laramie resident Tim Hale said Shea’s current employment with Pence and MacMillan LLC, a local lawfirm, was concerning.
The appointment would mean two of the city’s three magistrates were employed by Pence and MacMillan LLC, which is the same law firm the city attorney worked at previously.
“If you go ahead with Jodi Shea tonight, I believe you have a royal conflict of interest,” Hale said. “Essentially, you’ve got a city attorney and two magistrates with ties to this law firm. The fact this item was originally on the consent agenda illustrates how incompetent this council is.”
According to Laramie Director of Administrative Services Malea Brown, the city’s current magistrates are Shea, of Pence and MacMillan LLC, Devon O’Connell, of Pence and MacMillan LLC, and Robert Sanford, of The Sanford Law Firm LLC.
Laramie resident Andrew Joel Fonte said he did not agree with the appointment either.
“It might be noted that none of these magistrates are worth a darn,” Fonte said. “None of them stand up for justice. None of them have that in their vocabulary.”
Fonte said the city’s current magistrates don’t protect the poor and ignore the principles laid out in the constitution.
After he talked for about seven minutes, Mayor Andi Summerville told Fonte the council’s rule for public comment was each person receives five minutes to speak in an effort to streamline the meetings. She asked he wrap up his comments and pursue other avenues, such as telephone or internet communications, to communicate with the councilors.
Fonte pointed out Wyoming Equality board member Robert West spoke for about 10 minutes during the meeting’s public comment portion without the council enforcing the five-minute rule and Wyoming Equality Executive Director Sara Burlingame spoke for about seven minutes without council interruption.
No discussion from the councilors occurred before they voted on the agenda item.
Shea’s appointment was approved 7-1, with Councilor Charles McKinney voting against and Paulekas absent.