Suit: Commissioners should not use county funds for legal bills

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AUBURN — The 12 cities and towns of Androscoggin County that filed a lawsuit against the county and its commissioners last month expanded that suit Wednesday in Superior Court.

The original complaint states that the commissioners improperly set their own salaries and benefits and also approved their budget in violation of state law.

The amended suit seeks to deny the commissioners from having the county pay for their legal bills, which commissioners decided at their July 22 meeting.

“In a case in which virtually every municipality in Androscoggin County has joined together to sue the county commissioners for putting their personal interests ahead of the public interest, it is an even more galling gesture of public disregard for the county commissioners to direct the county to pay for their own, personal legal expenses,” said Emily Darby, a county Budget Committee member from Minot.

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The 12 municipalities in Androscoggin County that joined the lawsuit are Lewiston, Auburn, Poland, Lisbon, Turner, Durham, Greene, Sabattus, Minot, Leeds, Livermore Falls and Mechanic Falls. Wales and Livermore declined to sign on to the suit.

The amended suit also takes issue with the county reportedly refusing to discuss a possible solution and avoid litigation.

Paragraph 52 of the lawsuit says that the commissioners “not only refused to respond to the Municipalities’ letter offer to resolve this matter before the lawsuit was filed, but they refused even to meet to discuss the municipalities’ concerns after the lawsuit was filed, and instead, threatened the municipalities’ counsel with sanctions simply for filing the lawsuit.”

Lewiston City Councilor Michael Lachance, a member of the county Budget Committee, had strong words for the commissioners.

“While the municipalities worked to resolve this issue quickly and inexpensively, the county commissioners stonewalled for over eight months,” Lachance said. “Today, we’re left with no choice but to pursue a lawsuit that will put the brakes on this runaway train and bring to a close the era of defiant cronyism in county government.”

At Wednesday night’s meeting, the commissioners met with their attorneys for more than an hour in executive session but had no comment afterward.

ssherlock@sunjournal.com

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