The City Council has voted to approve a new justice of the peace after searching for several weeks for someone to fill the position, which was vacated by a 22-year veteran who says he feels relieved to have "washed my hands of the thing."

Ned Deuel will be named justice of the peace at a City Council meeting April 19, according to city officials. He has been serving temporarily in the position since it opened and says he will happily accept the job.Council members voted to approve Deuel Tuesday during a closed meeting, said Mayor Lynn Crook. The city had received three bids for the job, but one applicant subsequently changed his mind and told the mayor he no longer wanted the position.

The job's salary, $225 a year, was apparently not what prompted the bid withdrawal, though. In fact, Councilmember Marilyn Clayson said one of the bids came in at a lower figure.

Salary was the issue in January, however, when Crook told then-justice Jay O. Peterson that he would be laid off along with several other city employees in an effort to curb spending. Officials said they could pay others less to do the jobs of long-time employees.

Peterson had served in Santaquin for more than two decades when the City Council began discussing whether it had the legal right to lay him off before the end of his appointed four-year term.

In January, Peterson said he would fight the council's effort to dismiss him, but after considering the situation, he resigned.

"There just comes a time in a fella's life when he just gets tired. There was no doubt I could have proved my point, but I just washed my hands of the thing," he said. "This here (the threatened layoff) was just kind of the straw that broke the camel's back. I'm just relieved to get out of it."

Crook now refuses to say whether the possibility of getting a justice of the peace for less money was the sole reason he threatened to lay off Peterson. "None of your business," the mayor told the Deseret News after being questioned on the subject.

Ironically, the new justice will make the same salary Peterson did. What is the explanation for that? "I've got no comment on that," Crook said.

Peterson said it's possible the insurance benefits he received from the city were the real problem. In addition to the salary, he got benefits that probably cost the city about $150 a month. It is not clear whether the new justice will receive benefits, but Deuel said he will accept the job regardless, because as a retired Utah Highway Patrol trooper, he gets benefits from the state.

Deuel, who is also justice of the peace in Payson, said he expects to work about one day a week in Santaquin.