Under the 2012 Androscoggin County Charter, voted on and approved by the citizens of the county, the county Budget Committee must approve the commissioners’ salary and benefits. The process outlined in the charter prevents the obvious conflict of interest in having commissioners set their own salary and benefits.

In the last cycle, the Budget Committee set the commissioners’ salary at $3,500 with no health benefits included. Part of the reason was that the number of commissioners was increased from three to seven under the new charter and the position of county administrator was established, significantly reducing the scope of authority and time commitments required of the commissioners.

The previous salary was $7,500, plus health insurance that cost the county about $8,000 per commissioner. The commissioners made the unilateral decision to pay themselves $5,000 plus health insurance. This difference of approximately $61,000 was passed on directly to the property taxpayers in the county.

The commissioners have violated the clear language of the charter.

Now the commissioners are proposing a charter amendment that would weaken the authority of the Budget Committee over salaries and benefits in an after-the-fact effort to validate their prior inappropriate actions.

In the town of Poland, the Board of Selectmen does not set its salary without oversight and approval. In preparing the town budget, the selectmen and members of the Budget Committee sit down together and cooperatively develop the budget. The committee and board may not agree on all items. The final approval of the budget is done at a town meeting by the citizens of Poland. If there is a difference between the Budget Committee and the selectmen’s recommendations, both amounts are provided to the citizens and they make the final decision. That provides transparency and oversight.

Under the county commissioners’ proposal, the unapproved salaries and benefits they now receive would become the base for the future. The Budget Committee would no longer have the authority to disapprove the current status quo.

The commissioners’ decision to ignore the charter requirement for Budget Committee approval of salaries and benefits and to ignore the changes the Budget Committee made to the current year’s budget led to a lawsuit by 13 of the 14 communities in Androscoggin County, focused on reversing the commissioners’ pay and benefits and making it clear that the Budget Committee has to give its approval to the salary and benefits.

So far the commissioners have spent around $40,000 trying to defend themselves. This is on top of the $50,000 legal bill that was run up in trying to disallow an employee claim of a few hundred dollars in back pay. In my opinion, that is $90,000 of irresponsible spending of taxpayer money.

Commissioners should not be setting their own salary and benefits. There should be oversight by the county Budget Committee.

I urge a “no” vote on the charter amendment on Nov. 3.

Stan Tetenman is a member of the board of selectmen in Poland.


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