June 20, 2018
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Piscataquis County commissioners discuss improving relations with county employees

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Some county employees told the Piscataquis County commissioners during an informal get-together Tuesday that they felt they were being micromanaged.

About 20 employees attended the session, at which concerns were shared and updates provided on pending projects.

Commissioner Eric Ward, who noted he had heard a lot of rumors last fall during the budget process, said he hoped the meeting would allow for an open discussion and a chance to get feedback, good or bad.

‘’Some of the things that did happen last year do have a lasting effect on relationships. They do to me,’’ Sheriff John Goggin said. Goggin referred to the commissioners’ proposal to cut his salary last year, which they later restored but did not include the 1.2 percent pay increase that other elected officials received.

He also noted that Chief Deputy Dale Clukey did not receive the 2 percent increase that was given to other administrators and union members in his department, and he spoke about other cuts made in his budget. Those cuts would make some accounts overdrawn, according to Goggin. He said it appeared his department worked under a double standard.

‘’I want, and my people want, to get along with the commissioners,’’ Goggin said. He said his department had always had a good relationship with previous boards but that something changed in recent years.  

‘’I call it micromanagement. I feel like we’re getting boxed in and micromanaged,’’ he said. ‘’It’s like it’s our way or the highway.’’

’’ What you assume we feel, we might assume you feel too,’’ Ward replied. He said the budget advisory committee was taken aback because the sheriff’s department had about a 20 percent increase in its budget last year. ‘’It’s not personal,’’ he said.

Dave Roberts, supervisor of communications, said Goggin is a ‘’line-item man’’ who makes his employees live within their budgets. ‘’What I’ve seen progressively over those years is all of our line-item budgets being completely hacked,’’ he said. The department will now be faced with overdrafts, Roberts said.

‘’I think the overall budget was balanced on the sheriff’s department’s back, but of course we have the biggest expenditure of the county,’’ Goggin said. ‘’Are we here to support county government or are we here to eliminate county government? That’s what it’s come down to.’’

Commissioner Tom Lizotte said the county tries to provide the best service to the taxpayers that it can afford. ‘’The focus should be on the taxpayer and meeting their needs,’’ he said.

Goggin said he hadn’t heard any taxpayers complain about what they pay for county government.

‘’I just think we need to re-establish the trust and the respect between the commissioners and the employees because of all the things that have taken place over the past year and year and one half,’’ said Elaine Roberts, administrative assistant in the district attorney’s office.

A couple of other employees also commented during the session. One commended the county for hiring an owner’s representative to oversee its interests in the courthouse renovation project, and the other complained about the secrecy that was involved in the health insurance change. That secrecy had to be maintained as part of the negotiations with the union, Lizotte noted.

‘’We need to understand that we’re in this business together,’’ Roberts said.

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