Having wrestled for years with how to organize its staff to best manage its finances, Hancock County again is looking to create and fill a finance manager position after its part-time treasurer elected with no bookkeeping experience has refused to continue on-the-job training.
In recent decades, Hancock County has had full-time elected treasurers with significant finance experience, part-time treasurers with little experience and at one point a chief financial officer. Now, with its part-time elected treasurer, the county again is trying to find a solution for managing its increasingly complicated finances.
Scott Adkins, the county administrator who worked eight years as Penobscot County’s finance director prior to taking the Hancock County job in 2016, handles most of the day-to-day responsibilities of balancing the county’s books. But he has approached Hancock County commissioners about creating a finance manager position so he can reduce his bookkeeping workload and spend more time on other tasks.
County commissioners are expected to discuss the topic with Adkins at their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.
What has complicated county officials’ efforts is the county’s legal obligation to have an elected treasurer with defined statutory responsibilities, but who is not required to have any prior financial management experience. The only requirement for being elected treasurer is being an adult Hancock County resident.
Hancock County’s current treasurer, Michael Boucher, had no finance management experience when he was elected as a write-in candidate in 2018. When he started the job, he told county commissioners — who oversee the county budget — that he was willing to be trained in the basics of the job by Adkins.
But Boucher’s efforts to learn on the job from Adkins have since come to a halt, said William Clark, who chairs the three-member commission. Commissioners had agreed to pay Boucher extra for the time he would put in learning from Adkins, but the relationship broke down after Boucher and Adkins had differences of opinion about what Boucher should be doing to improve his skills, Clark said.
Boucher’s bookkeeping skills are “woefully inadequate” for being in charge of the county’s books, Clark said.
“We basically gave up any hope he would become proficient,” Clark said. “He just didn’t want to work for Scott. He doesn’t come in [to work much]. He doesn’t do anything.”
Clark said the county no longer pays Boucher an hourly wage, which it did for a while to compensate Boucher for training time. As his pay currently stands, Boucher gets a $200 stipend each week and is covered by the county’s health insurance plan.
Boucher, who works part-time as a police officer for the Dexter Police Department, did not return a voicemail message left Friday on his cell phone.
A decade ago, Boucher served two years as an Ellsworth city councilor but resigned with one year left in his term, and since 2010 has worked for 10 different law enforcement agencies, according to a record of his work history on file with the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. He was hired as an on-call corrections officer at the Hancock County Jail a few months before being elected the county’s treasurer, but left the position the following May.
Clark said he thinks the county should hire someone with ample experience to be the county’s primary bookkeeper, though commissioners and Adkins would need to work out the details.
One option would be drafting and adopting a county charter, with voter approval, that would mandate that the treasurer position be appointed rather than elected, Clark said. Without a charter, the county is required by state law to keep the treasurer as an elected position.
In 2005, the county held a referendum vote to determine if the elected treasurer position should become an appointed one, but voters rejected the idea by a 2-1 ratio.
Since 2008, when then-Treasurer Sally Crowley died while holding the office, the elected position has been funded only as a part-time position, though commissioners do not have the authority to tell whoever holds the position how many hours they can spend on the job.
Since Crowley’s death, the day-to-day job of maintaining the county’s finances has been assigned to a full-time appointed employee, though subsequent treasurers still have been expected to meet their responsibilities laid out in state law, which include receiving and accounting for revenue, paying and accounting for bills and making sure there is an external independent audit of the county’s finances each year.
From 2009 through 2015, the day-to-day bookkeeping was handled by Philip Roy, who during that time served as the county’s chief financial officer but also was broadly criticized and at times feuded with other county officials — including former Treasurer Janice Eldridge.