DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Piscataquis County commissioners will ask a judge to force the county sheriff to follow the law.
In a 3-0 vote on Tuesday, the commissioners made a motion to ask the county attorney to seek a court order from a judge to force Sheriff John Goggin to use line item transfers in regard to overtime pay.
“The law says you can’t spend money you don’t have,” said Commissioner Thomas Lizotte. “If you have a particular budget, all you have to do is sign a line of transfer and we’d approve that.”
Piscataquis County communications director Dave Roberts said Goggin is on vacation. Efforts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.
Finance administrator Phyllis Lyford explained that the sheriff’s department’s paid part-time budget is in the black while the paid overtime budget is “over, but not that much.”
“It’s still over,” said Lizotte. “We’ve gone over this so many times that I sound like a broken record, but I’ve lost track of how many times we’ve told the sheriff’s department about this. We’ve shared a copy of state law that covers line transfers. A company with an analysis has said this is how we’re supposed to do things and the sheriff still is not complying with state law in how they expend public tax dollars.”
County Manager Marilyn Tourtelotte said she emailed Sheriff Goggin on Nov. 9 and placed a letter in the sheriff’s department’s mailbox on Nov. 10, asking for the line of transfer request.
Lizotte said there is money elsewhere in the sheriff’s department funds, but it requires a line transfer in order to use that money for another purpose, such as overtime pay.
Lizotte said there was no other choice than to seek court intervention.
“I believe the only avenue we have that’s left to us is to engage the county attorney and seek a court order from a judge to ask the sheriff’s department to comply with the law,” said Lizotte.
“I hate to take that action, but I even more dislike the idea of wasting taxpayer dollars that we don’t have,” added Lizotte. “My thought on this is if a court order is given to any public official saying you have to follow the state law, that pretty much ends the discussion, in my view. That’s the only way I can think of to get the chief law enforcement officer in the county to follow the law.”
Commissioner Eric Ward agreed.
“It’s definitely a broken record,” said Ward. “I don’t know what else to do.”
Lizotte said he doesn’t understand why the sheriff’s department doesn’t do line transfers for overtime.
“It’s a one-minute operation to say two lines you filled in [on a paper form], but the sheriff doesn’t want to do that,” said Lizotte. “Every other sheriff in the state seems to know the law and comply with the law.”
Lizotte said Goggin did provide the county commissioners with a line of transfer request at the previous meeting, but not this time.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Lizotte, adding that Goggin regularly uses line transfers for other expenditures, but rarely for overtime.