Robert Gilliland sits in on a Nogales City Council meeting on May 4. That evening, council unanimously approved a contract for Gilliland to serve as the city magistrate, ending a six-month vacancy for the role.

The Nogales City Council approved a contract Wednesday to employ Robert Gilliland, cementing the attorney’s role as new city magistrate.

Council members voted unanimously in favor of Gilliland’s contract, with limited discussion. The new magistrate will be sworn in Monday morning, according to City Attorney Michael Massee.

Gilliland’s background includes working as a prosecutor, a public defender, and an assistant attorney general for the state. The incoming magistrate, who had previously applied to serve as judge pro tempore for Santa Cruz County, sat in on Wednesday’s meeting as city officials took their vote.

In a matter of weeks, Nogales has concluded searches for two major leadership positions: those of city magistrate and city manager. On April 25, Edward Dickie officially began serving as Nogales city manager after a months-long search.

The contract

The city’s contract with Gilliland is for a four-year term starting May 9. As magistrate, Gilliland will earn an annual salary of $108,000 – the same salary that had been paid to the city’s former magistrate, Vanessa Cartwright.

During the search that landed Gilliland, several city officials, including Mayor Arturo Garino, seemed adamant about maintaining a similar salary for Cartwright’s replacement.

“I think we can find a qualified judge in the city of Nogales that would accept 108 (thousand),” Garino said at a Jan. 5 meeting.

The position also allows for 120 hours of annual vacation time, along with 100 hours of annual sick leave.

The contract specifies that the magistrate contract can only be terminated for several specific reasons, including a criminal conviction or neglect of duty. If Gilliland were to resign, he must give the city at least 60 days notice to be paid for any accumulated sick and vacation hours, the contract states.

Unlike some city leadership positions, the contract does not specifically require Gilliland to live within the Nogales city limits. Speaking to the NI Wednesday, Gilliland noted that he’d be moving to the city, adding that he admired the international aspect of Ambos Nogales.

The gig

Gilliland’s appointment ends a six-month vacancy. Cartwright left the magistrate post last November to serve as judge pro tempore at Superior Court – the job Gilliland had also applied for. In the interim, retired judge Deirdre Eshleman has presided over civil and criminal matters at city court.

By April, city officials had narrowed down the search, conducting in-person interviews with three candidates: Marylou Natividad, a former City of Tucson prosecutor; Joe Rueda, a former deputy attorney with the Santa Cruz County Attorney’s Office; and Gilliland.

On April 12, City Attorney Mike Massee told the NI in an email that the mayor and council were preparing to address an employment agreement with Gilliand at the May 4 council meeting.

Gilliland’s experience includes six years with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, where he served as assistant attorney general and focused on child support enforcement. After leaving the position in 2013, he went on to serve as a public defender for Cochise County through 2016. At the start of 2017, Gilliland began a stint as a criminal prosecutor for Greenlee County.

The magistrate – an appointed position in Nogales – presides over municipal court proceedings, according to the city charter. Eshleman’s court calendar currently includes hearings for potential shoplifting, disorderly conduct and property damage charges.

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