Ahead of a hurriedly called Aug. 21 Payson Town Council executive session, Town Attorney Hector Figueroa submitted his decision to retire.
“We went into executive session to address a personnel issue, and when we arrived we discovered that Town Attorney Hector Figueroa has offered his decision to resign — to retire — and we regretfully accept that decision,” said Mayor Tom Morrissey to the audience.
Figueroa’s retirement at 71 comes a little over a week after the abrupt termination of Town Manager LaRon Garrett on a 4-3 council vote. That vote spurred the formation of a committee to recall Mayor Morrissey and the three council members who voted to fire Garrett.
The mayor called for the executive session on Monday morning to discuss a personnel issue. The council met in executive session for half an hour before reconvening and announcing Figueroa had resigned.
Figueroa’s resignation follows a dust up at the Payson Rodeo over the weekend. Figueroa reportedly wore a gun to the event, which is prohibited. (See the accompanying story on the incident on page 5.)
The resignation of the town attorney completes a sweep of the town’s top positions since Morrissey and the new council majority took their seats.
Longtime Payson Police Chief and Assistant Town Manager Don Engler retired at the end of July. The exit of Engler, Garrett and Figueroa represents a combined loss of 67 years of institutional knowledge of town policies, history and procedures.
Figueroa has served as the town attorney since 2015, when he was hired under Kenny Evans’ tenure. He replaced Tim Wright, who left the town to become a Gila County Superior Court judge.
“He (Figueroa) took this job when he was at retirement age,” said Evans. “He took this job because he loved the community.”
Evans said he appreciated that Figueroa “didn’t pull any punches. He was brutally frank.”
Figueroa showed that frankness numerous times during meetings with the current council.
During the Aug. 15 meeting, Figueroa cautioned the council against the dangers of setting up a subcommittee made up of the mayor and two other council members.
“My finding is this — as mayor you have the authority to create a subcommittee, but it is equally clear that whatever this committee is called, it is covered by the open meeting law,” he said.
At another meeting, Figueroa weighed in on the definition of who was CEO of the town.
“Mr. Mayor, you are only one on a council,” he said.
Figueroa grew up in Douglas, Ariz. He received an AA from Cochise Community College and finished up his undergraduate work at the University of Phoenix. He received his law degree from the University of Arizona.
Figueroa started his law career as the City of South Tucson Chief Magistrate from 1995 to 2000.
He honed his city attorney chops as the city attorney at the City of South Tucson from 2000 to 2012, appointed six terms. He then added the City of Willcox to his resumé, working there from 2007 to 2012.
Councilor Steve Smith said he and Figueroa grew up in the same part of Arizona and though 10 years apart in age, shared a parallel career.
“My relationship with Hector is different,” said Smith, “we actually have connections in our lives of people that we both have known over our careers at different times.”
They both worked in the criminal justice system when Figueroa served as magistrate and Smith in probation.
The two also served in the National Guard.
“He was in the 158 Infantry, and then went on to the 158 M.P.s,” said Smith, “I was in the National Guard.”
Smith had only praise for Figueroa’s good works.
“I’ve had a lot of attorneys work for me in the military as judge advocates and attorneys. He would have been one,” said Smith. “I appreciated his counsel, advice and candor and responses to my questions and inquiry. I like him and wish the best for him.”
At the end of the Aug. 21 meeting, Morrissey echoed that sentiment.
“We wish him the best of everything. He served us well and we wish him the best of everything in his future endeavors,” said Morrissey.