POLAND — Selectmen voted 5-0 Tuesday night to continue to stand with the 12 Androscoggin County towns in their lawsuit charging county commissioners violated either the county charter or state law when they voted to set their salaries and benefits.

The action was taken in response to a settlement agreement sent to officials in the 12 towns by Beth Bell, chairwoman of the Board of Commissioners.

The settlement agreement sought to bring an end to the civil action undertaken by the towns and, by accepting the agreement, it would have meant the end of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit objects to the commissioners’ interpretation of who has final say over the commissioners’ salaries and benefits.

The towns argue that the county Budget Committee, by a supermajority vote, had the final say.

The commissioners argue that the new county charter rendered the Budget Committee’s vote advisory only.

In offering the settlement, Bell noted that the voters of Androscoggin County on Nov. 3 had overwhelmingly supported the charter amendment proposed by the commissioners. The vote was 12,186 to 5,546.

The charter amendment, prepared by lawyers representing the commissioners in the lawsuit brought on by the towns, was written with the intent to allow the commissioners the final say over their compensation.

Many found the language in the charter amendment confusing.

“The question on the ballot was very misleading,” Town Manager Bradley Plante said. “Many people thought (by voting yes on the amendment) they were giving final authority to the Budget Committee.”

In voting to stay the course in pursuit of a court judgment, selectmen stipulated that the town’s financial commitment remain at the $1,800 previously approved.

Selectman Stan Tetenman noted that the Budget Committee is holding a public hearing on next year’s proposed budget at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, in the courtroom of the County Building in Auburn.
 
“This is the only time the public will have a chance to comment on the budget,” Tetenman said, “It next goes to the county commissioners and there will be no more public discussion.”
 
Tetenman encouraged the public to attend Wednesday’s meeting “as a way to show the county commissioners they are not doing the right thing.”
 
Selectman Steve Robinson was critical of the county commissioners’ management style and attitude toward county taxpayers.
 
“The way business is being conducted is less than commendable,” Robinson said.
 
In other business, selectmen approved revisions made to the town’s governance policy. They also accepted, with pleasure, notification from George Gervais, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, that the town’s request for an amendment to alter one of its Tax Increment Finance districts had been formally approved.

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