Hancock County in the News
- 09 February 2016
Reproduced courtesy The Ellsworth American ~ Written by Jennifer Osborn - July 9, 2015
ELLSWORTH — The Hancock County Commissioners intend to reorganize the financial affairs office in response to a state auditor’s finding that the board has been obstructing the elected county treasurer.
Commissioner Steve Joy motioned at the board’s regular monthly meeting Tuesday “to eliminate the current organizational structure of the Office of Financial Affairs and ask the [county] administrator to reorganize assignment of duties in that office.”
Chairman Commissioner Joe Brown voted in favor, as did Joy.
Commissioner Antonio Blasi abstained.
Before the vote, Blasi said the position of chief financial officer should be eliminated.
Joy replied, “For me, the first step is to eliminate the current structure.”
The title itself doesn’t make any difference; the statute will state who will report to the board, Joy said.
Chief Financial Officer Phil Roy has been on a paid leave of absence since mid-June, according to County Administrator Eugene Conlogue.
As for Roy’s return, “It could be sometime later this month,” Conlogue said.
Roy earns an annual salary of roughly “$57,000 and change,” the administrator said.
There is no time frame for the reorganization, said Conlogue.
“That’s going to be a bit of a process,” he said.
The Office of the State Auditor issued findings in June that the commissioners should not have created a position of chief financial officer to oversee the county’s financial management. That action by the commissioners was taken in 2009. The state auditor ruled that the county’s fiscal management is to lie with the elected county treasurer, whose hours and salary had been cut by the commissioners.
Treasurer Janice Eldridge said the commissioners had reduced the treasurer’s hours to five hours a week even before she was elected to office the first time in 2010. She was re-elected to a four-year term November 2014.
The commissioners went against the will of the voters with the creation of the CFO position, the auditor said. In 2005, Hancock County voters had rejected a proposal to make the county treasurer an appointed position instead of an elected one.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, auditor Kathy Tyson of Runyon Kersteen Ouellette presented commissioners with her findings from the county’s 2014 audit.
Tyson mentioned a few areas where the county should take action. One concerns a separate bank account for restitution at the District Attorney’s Office, which has reached $39,000. The restitution account takes in restitution payments from offenders and issues checks to their victims.
“The separate bank account isn’t a problem, but it’s not being reviewed by the central office or being covered by the audit,” Tyson said.
When the account was smaller it wasn’t an issue, the auditor said. “Well, it’s about $39,000 now and there’s a lot of activity that flows in and out of that.”
The restitution account is listed under the county’s identification number, which means if something goes wrong, the county will be held responsible, she said.
“Make a decision. It’s either going to be yours and subject to your controls or it’s not,” Tyson said. “It could go under the state, which is probably what should happen.”