Expressing frustration with the current elected county treasurer, who has not participated in any commissioner meetings yet in 2021, Hancock County commissioners said Tuesday they plan to explore the possibility of adopting a county charter.
If the county drafted a charter that voters then approved, commissioners could make the treasurer position an appointed one, answerable to them, and could ensure that whoever holds the job has adequate bookkeeping experience to manage the county’s finances. Without a county charter, state law requires the position to be an elected one, and allows any adult who resides in Hancock County to hold the office.
As things stand, the county has an elected treasurer who won the seat in 2018 with 478 votes. He has no financial management experience, and a strained relationship with other county officials.
County officials had hoped that Michael Boucher would learn more about finance management with training from Scott Adkins, the county administrator, but that relationship fell apart last year, resulting in Boucher filing a complaint about Adkins with the commissioners. The county already has an appointed finance coordinator working in the treasurer’s office, but Adkins is developing a job description for some type of additional finance clerk position that could have a supervisory role and, if approved and funded, could assume some of the day-to-day responsibilities that he had hoped Boucher would take on.
“The thing we feared most [has] happened,” Commissioner John Wombacher said Tuesday.
Boucher has not responded to messages sent this week to his cell phone or to the Dexter Police Department, where he works as a part-time police officer.
When Hancock County’s prior treasurer, Janice Eldridge, decided not to seek re-election in 2018, county officials tried unsuccessfully to get people with finance management experience to run for the post, to avoid the precise situation they now find themselves in, county officials have said. County commissioners have ultimate authority over the county budget, and so can significantly adjust the pay of other county officials or employees, but they have no supervisory authority over other elected officials.
Commissioner Paul Paradis said Tuesday that he is receptive to the idea of creating a finance coordinator position, to help take some of the bookkeeping workload off Adkins, but that the best long-term solution is to make the treasurer position an appointed one. Even if the county hires an experienced, full-time finance coordinator, he said, that won’t necessarily resolve the difficulties of also having an elected treasurer with no experience who can only lose his or her job by losing an election.
“It’s the structure we’re operating under that puts us in the position we’re in,” Paradis said.
The commissioners agreed Tuesday to research charters that other Maine counties have adopted — including Androscoggin, Aroostook, Cumberland, Knox and Somerset counties — and to discuss the concept further at a future meeting. Commissioners would also look into creating a charter commission.