Livermore joins suit against commissioners

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LIVERMORE — The Board of Selectpersons has voted unanimously to join a lawsuit against Androscoggin County and its commissioners.

Administrative Assistant Carrie Castonguay told the board Monday night she received a call from Lewiston attorney Peter Brann of Brann & Isaacson, the firm representing 12 other municipalities that contend commissioners improperly set their salaries and approved their budget in a way that violated Maine law.

Castonguay said Brann told her there was an opportunity for Livermore to join the suit.

“Brann said the fee to join in would be prorated based on the town’s population,” Castonguay said. She told the selectboard the amount would be between $200 and $500.

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“I think we should join in,” Peter Castonguay, chairman of the Livermore Board of Selectpersons, said. 

Selectperson Tim Kachnovich agreed. “We dropped the ball by not getting on board initially,” he said.

The suit was filed in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn on Tuesday, July 21. The 12 towns and cities involved at that time called the commissioners’ move to set their own salaries a “power grab.”

According to the county charter, a county Budget Committee made up of representatives from municipalities must approve the county budget and the commissioners’ salaries and benefits.

However, the commissioners overturned many of the Budget Committee’s recommendations. Salaries and benefits for the commissioners were among the line items affected.

During spending deliberations for 2015, the Budget Committee cut commissioners’ salaries from $5,500 for the chairman and $5,000 for other commissioners to $3,500 and $3,000, respectively. Commissioners voted 2-0-1 to overturn the cuts and approved a salary of $5,000, with a $500 boost for the chair. 

Commissioners Beth Bell and Elaine Makas voted in favor of the salaries and benefits. Chairman Randall Greenwood abstained.

The Budget Committee also voted to eliminate family health and dental insurance benefits, worth as much as $18,000 per person. Commissioners voted to restore individual health benefits worth about $8,400 per person.

Since then, under the new County Charter, the commission has grown to seven members.

Named in the suit are Makas, Bell, Greenwood, Ronald Chicoine, Matthew Roy, Alfreda Fournier and Sally Christner.

The complaint accuses the commissioners of “feathering their own nests” and asks for the return of all salaries and benefits not approved by the Budget Committee, according to a news release.

pharnden@sunmediagroup.net

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