LIVERMORE — Selectpersons voted Monday, with regret, to withdraw from the lawsuit filed against Androscoggin County commissioners over their salaries and budget approval process.

The board voted in August to join an action taken by 12 other municipalities. The suit contends the commissioners improperly set their salaries and approved their budget in violation of Maine law.

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.”

Administrative Assistant Carrie Castonguay gave the board updates she received at a meeting last week regarding the lawsuit. She told selectpersons the commissioners’ attorneys filed a motion to dismiss and a motion for sanctions. Each motion is 100 pages long.

The county’s attorneys have spent $55,111 on the lawsuit. “They’re using ‘scorched earth’ tactics,” she said. Opposing counsel insist on litigating every little point, even when it doesn’t make any sense, she said.

Castonguay said Peter Brann, the lawyer representing the towns, has spent about $15,000 on the case. That amount is what was estimated for litigating the entire case in Superior Court.

At the meeting, Brann estimated another $20,000 would be needed to finalize the issue. Castonguay said that could rise to $40,000 or more.

Towns may vote to opt out now that the $15,000 level has been reached. Livermore’s share to date is $366. 

Treasurer Amy Byron said there is about $1,000 in the town’s legal budget.

Selectperson Tom Gould asked what the town would receive should the suit be successful.

Castonguay said the suit asks that the commissioners’ salaries and benefits be returned to the amounts recommended by the county Budget Committee. Any overpayments would be returned to the county. No money would come directly to the towns.

Selectperson Megan Dion said she tries to follow the town’s budget. “I don’t anticipate anything for our money,” she said.

Gould said, “It’s a crying shame and probably precisely what they (the county attorneys) are looking for. We’re a small town. It’s not our money. We have to look to do what’s in the best interest of the town.”

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