LEWISTON — Despite a defense from an Androscoggin County commissioner and one of her supporters, councilors Tuesday added their voices to the criticism of commissioner pay scales.
Lewiston city councilors voted 6-0 to pass a resolution asking commissioners to reverse their compensation decision and asking the state attorney general to review the matter.
“The reason we are here talking about this tonight is because people locked their heels, both the County Budget Committee and the county commissioners,” Councilor Mark Cayer said.
Councilor Leslie Dubois recused herself from the discussion Tuesday and Councilor Kristen Cloutier was absent. According to Lewiston’s City Charter, Mayor Robert Macdonald was allowed to vote because other councilors were absent or excused.
The County Commission voted last month to reinstate a portion of their salary after cuts were made by the County Budget Committee.
Budget Committee members had voted to cut commissioners’ annual salaries from $7,200 per commissioner to $3,000. The committee also did away with health insurance coverage for commissioners and their families.
Commissioners voted in November to restore $2,000 of their individual base pay — upping their salary to $5,000 — and to fund individual health and dental coverage for commissioners worth about $8,400 per commissioner.
Members of the Budget Committee have asked Maine Attorney General Janet Mills to intervene.
So far, 13 of Androscoggin County’s 14 municipalities have come out against the commissioners’ pay changes or have agreed to discuss it.
Commissioner Elaine Makas said it’s not a simple issue. The County Charter is confusing, but it gives commissioners the final say in how much they are compensated, she said. Commissioners do hard work, she said, and the compensation they would be paid is in line with that paid to other Maine county commissioners.
“We are saying we are paying our CEOs little, because we are CEOS. We are the decision-makers,” Makas said. “I think that makes Androscoggin look bad. I feel it is disrespectful of the county and of us.”
Former city councilor Stavros Mendros said he thought the commission-determined compensation was fair.
“My concern with the Budget Committee is, does anybody on there know what the responsibility of a county commissioner is?” Mendros said.
But councilors said they had concerns and wanted county officials, both commissioners and Budget Committee members, to work together.
“I’m interested in seeing commissioners come together with the Budget Committee and other interested parties to try to come up with a resolution in the interim and make a long-term fix to the charter,” City Councilor Nate Libby said. “They need to clarify that county commissioners will not set their own salary.”