ELLSWORTH, Maine — The two candidates running for one Hancock County commissioner seat each say they would seek changes in the county’s financial office if he is elected.
Antonio Blasi of Hancock and Fred Ehrlenbach of Trenton are running for a seat being vacated by Commissioner Fay Lawson of Tremont, who has decided not to run again. Voters on Mount Desert Island, nearby offshore islands and in the towns of Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine and Trenton will cast ballots in the race on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
In separate interviews this week, neither man said he had any specific concerns about Phil Roy, the county’s controversial chief financial officer.
Roy has faced scrutiny for the way he has handled money for other organizations, but Hancock County commissioners have said he hasn’t done anything illegal and that they are happy with how he has managed the county’s finances.
Ehrlenbach, chairman of the Board of Selectmen in Trenton, said the county should change the way it budgets certain expenses. Health care and cellphone costs, for example, are managed on a countywide basis rather than as part of individual departmental budgets, he said, which makes it difficult to track how each department handles or contributes to those costs.
“You just don’t know,” he said.
Ehrlenbach said the county budget does not include tax payments from towns, which results in more expenses than revenues being listed in the budget.
“I just don’t agree with the accounting practice,” he said.
Ehrlenbach also said he thinks the commissioners have interfered with how county departments are run by other elected officials. Those officials should be held accountable by the electorate, not by the commissioners, he said.
Blasi, a small business owner who serves on the Hancock municipal planning board, declined to comment specifically on Roy. He said that, according to state statute, the county’s financial office should be run by the elected county treasurer, not by an appointed CFO. Commissioners changed the treasurer position from a full-time post to part-time when they hired Roy in January 2009.
“The treasurer should be running the office,” Blasi said.
Blasi encouraged voters to look up part 1 of Title 30 in Maine state law to learn more about how counties are required to operate.
Blasi said commissioners should make their meetings more accessible, by holding them at night instead of on weekday mornings when most people are at work. He said commissioners occasionally could meet at municipal offices around the county and could broadcast them, either on cable television or the Internet.
Blasi said he, like Lawson, is a Democrat and that if Ehrlenbach is elected the three-seat commission would be entirely in the control of one political party.
“I don’t want to see three Republicans running Hancock County,” he said.
The term of Steve Joy of Ellsworth, chairman of the commission, also ends this year but he is unopposed in his re-election bid.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.