PARIS — Oxford County commissioners approved paying for a printing job on Tuesday after county Treasurer Roy Gedat questioned whether the cost should be paid with tax revenue.
Gedat said he held off on paying a $5,190.92 bill to J.S. McCarthy Printers of Augusta, who printed the ballots for an Oxford County referendum vote in June, until he could bring the matter to the commissioners. The referendum question asked whether voters would make the treasurer a position appointed by the commissioners rather than elected by voters. Results posted on the county's website, which are complete except for returns from Magalloway Plantation, show that 9,125 people voted against the change and 5,492 voted in favor of it.
“I didn't feel comfortable having the taxpayers pay the cost of the commissioners politically motivated decision,” Gedat said on Wednesday. “I think that it should have been paid either personally by the commissioners or through the party that sponsored this action.”
Former treasurer Mary Ann Prue, who held the office for 13 years, resigned earlier this year and the Oxford County Democrats selected Gedat to take her place. Commissioners argued that the resignation allowed a chance to streamline the treasurer's office to save costs. They also said changing the position to an appointed one would ensure that someone with adequate credentials would hold the job.
Opponents argued that the proposal would make the treasurer less accountable to the people. Gedat has also maintained that the question is politically motivated, since two commissioners are Republicans and one was a Republican before becoming an Independent in 2008. Gedat is the Democrat's nominee for the treasurer’s office in the November race, and though no Republican candidate was selected in the June primaries, he faces a challenge from Independent candidate Bill Hines of Peru.
On Tuesday, Chairman Steve Merrill said the county was obligated to pay the bill. He also said the question was legal under a state statute allowing commissioners or petitioners to pose the question of changing the treasurer’s status to voters. Commissioner David Duguay agreed that the bill needed to be paid.
“I thought it was important to get it out there and find out what people wanted,” Duguay said.
Commissioners voted 2-0 to approve payment, with commissioner Caldwell Jackson abstaining. Jackson also abstained from a vote earlier this year sending the matter to a vote, and later said he felt the issue should have been addressed during an off-year election.
Other counties in Maine have discussed changing the treasurer’s position from an elected to an appointed one, but only Knox County has made the change.