AUBURN — The Androscoggin County commissioners have proposed a settlement to the county municipalities one day after voters strongly supported an amendment to the county charter that commissioners say “reaffirmed” their authority over the budget process.

“The voters have now spoken with overwhelming support for the solution the board of commissioners proposed,” wrote Beth Bell, chairwoman of the commissioners.

The settlement seeks to have the municipalities agree to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit with prejudice “without costs to any party.” The county would withdraw its pending motion for sanctions against attorney Peter Brann, who is representing the municipalities.

The municipalities have until Nov. 18 to respond to the settlement offer.

Nearly 70 percent of the voters of Androscoggin County voted to ratify an amendment to the charter that says, “notwithstanding the final authority” of the commissioners over the county budget, the Budget Committee must approve any increase in salaries and compensation.

The municipalities filed a lawsuit against the commissioners in July for setting their own salaries and compensation — lower than the previous year’s stipend but higher than the Budget Committee had recommended. The suit also sought to clarify the powers of the Budget Committee over the county budget and to have the commissioners refund the county for their benefits and the difference in salaries.

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The proposal was released in a letter Wednesday evening by the commissioners following an executive session attended by their attorneys, including Bryan Dench and Amy Dieterich. Written by Chairwoman Bell,  the three-page letter discusses the history of the dispute, the successful amendment to the charter by voters and settlement terms.

“In light of this vote, and to try to put a stop to costly litigation that serves no useful purpose, the county and the individual commissioners are wasting no time in putting forth this comprehensive settlement proposal to all of the Plaintiff municipalities,” Bell wrote.

“The issues raised by the suit are disputes over public policy. They are disputes over how county government should operate. There is nothing about these issues or our attempt to resolve them that should be hidden from the public.”

In defending themselves, the commissioners had already spent nearly $50,000 in legal fees. County taxpayers were originally on the hook for paying those fees, but the commissioners were successful in having their risk pool pay for them.

The municipalities have spent approximately $15,000.

A motion to dismiss, filed by the commissioners, is in Superior Court. A decision could come by the end of the month.

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