AUBURN — The fight over salaries and benefits for Androscoggin County commissioners continues.

Six days after the county’s Budget Committee slashed commission salaries and eliminated benefits, the commissioners themselves are re-opening the issue in a 5 p.m. meeting Tuesday.

County Commissioner Elaine Makas said Tuesday that a recent opinion from longtime county attorney Bryan Dench said that the commissioners do have the right to approve elected leaders’ compensation, including their own.

However, members of the Budget Committee and the rule-making Charter Commission insisted that the commissioners have no such right.

“I just can’t believe that elected officials would go to this length,” said Richard Gross, chairman of the Charter Commission.

The intent of the Charter Commission was to give the Budget Committee the right to decide compensation for all elected officials, explicitly to prevent the commissions from setting their own pay, Gross said.

The charter — approved in a county-wide referendum in 2012 — seems to back that up.

It reads:

“Salaries and benefits of all County elected officials shall be recommended by the Board and approved by a majority plus one vote of the full Budget Committee. Said salary shall constitute full compensation for all services. Reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred in performance of the officials’ duties may be allowed upon formal review and approval by the Board.”

Currently, the commission’s three members all earn a base salary of $7,200 and health care and dental coverage for their whole families. Commissioner Randall Greenwood earns about $1,000 more as chairman.

In total, the commissioners receive between $15,000 and $26,000 in salary and benefits.

Budget Committee-approved pay would be a fraction of that. Health care and dental coverage were eliminated. And salary would be reduced to a base of $3,000, with an additional $500 for the chairman.

Budget Committee Chairman Michael Marcotte said Tuesday that he believed the decision was final.

“I’m very disappointed in the leadership of the County Commission,'” he said.

Charter Commission member Chip Morrison said the move left him “infuriated.”

Morrison, Gross and other Charter Commission members have submitted several letters to the county in recent weeks that assert the Budget Commission’s authority over elected officials’ compensation.

For the commissioners to re-open the salaries now is to embody the worst stereotypes of politicians, Morrison said.

“It’s politics in the worst way,” he said. “It’s just greed.”

The salary changes will effect more than the current three commissioners. The charter also expanded the commission. By Jan. 1, four new commissioners — Matthew Roy, Ronald Chicione, Alfreda Fournier and Sally Christner are slated to join Greenwood, Makas and Beth Bell.

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