Hancock County has hired a new finance director to help take some of the county’s bookkeeping.
Monica Cease of Ellsworth will fill the position, taking duties that had been pushed to county administrator Scott Adkins when elected County Treasurer Michael Boucher failed to take them on when he was elected in 2018.
Until this summer, Cease served as treasurer for the town of Swan’s Island for 20 years, according to Adkins. She also worked on financial matters for the Ellsworth School Department and has substantial experience using financial management software, he said.
Cease’s first day on the job was Sept. 2, Adkins said. She will be paid an annual salary of $55,000.
County commissioners approved the creation of the new position earlier this year aiming to help take the county’s daily bookkeeping burden off Adkins, who worked as Penobscot County’s finance director prior to taking the Hancock County job in 2016. Adkins’ other responsibilities in managing county operations have grown over the years, and the county’s finances have grown more complex, leading to the need for more bookkeeping help, Adkins has said.
The county administrator had sought to train Boucher in some of the county’s bookkeeping practices, but Boucher declined. Boucher has worked as a police officer for several Maine agencies in recent years, and had no finance management experience prior to being elected as a write-in candidate 3 years ago. In that election, Boucher received 478 votes, while Pamela Linscott, who was serving as the county’s appointed finance coordinator, received 404. Boucher’s term ends in 2022.
Unlike the positions of county sheriff or district attorney, being elected county treasurer does not require prior experience or professional certifications. Candidates for county treasurer need only to be a resident of the county where they run for office.
As finance director, Cease is expected to have supervisory authority over other finance clerks in the office, though not over Boucher.
The relationship between Boucher, Adkins and the county’s three elected commissioners soured this past spring, when Bill Clark, chairman of the commission, said that Boucher’s bookkeeping skills are “woefully inadequate” and that the county should hire someone to handle parts of the elected treasurer job that are not specifically spelled out in state law.
Boucher has said that he completed training county commissioners had requested of him, and accused other county officials of undermining his authority as an elected official and of creating a hostile work environment.
County officials have said that Boucher will retain his statutory duties as laid out in Maine law — which are to receive and account for revenue, to pay and account for bills, and to assure there is an external audit of the county’s finances each year — but that the finance director will oversee the county’s day-to-day bookkeeping.
The creation of the position is the county’s latest effort to see that the county’s finances are managed by somebody with professional experience. 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. Boucher currently is paid a stipend of $200 each week and is covered by the county’s health insurance plan.
From 2009 through 2015, the day-to-day bookkeeping was handled by Philip Roy, who during that time served as the county’s full-time chief financial officer but also was broadly criticized and at times feuded with other county officials — including former Treasurer Janice Eldridge. The CFO position was eliminated when Roy left in 2015.