County treasurer responds to criticism

ELLSWORTH Hancock County Treasurer Michael Boucher issued a statement last week in response to the county’s search for a finance director since Boucher does not have the experience needed for the position, according to officials.

The Hancock County Commissioners, at their April 7 meeting, reached a consensus that County Administrator Scott Adkins can’t effectively manage the county and work on projects when he’s spending half his time doing the finance work.

Boucher, when he was elected two years ago without any professional finance or bookkeeping experience, agreed to be trained on the job, but the county says that arrangement fell through.

Boucher did not respond to requests for comment at the time but sent a prepared statement on May 6, a portion of which follows.

“The gravest of these accusations being that I refused to conduct training, of which I assure you is completely incorrect, as I hold multiple certificates proving otherwise,” Boucher stated. “In addition, my desire to learn the position to which I was elected for should not be contested. I personally made an agreement to subject myself to terms that no other elected official has ever been asked of, to engage in direct orientation by the county administrator and county commissioners to learn to be an effective treasurer. Therefore, I successfully completed the agreed upon orientation period with positive reviews from the county administrator, which were delivered during two separate public portions of the commissioners’ meetings.”

According to Boucher, relations went south when he started making his own decisions.

“Following these positive reviews, I started making executive decisions for my department,” Boucher said. “These actions of independence from the orientation period resulted in the elimination and undermining of my elected responsibilities as county treasurer whenever possible. This ensued in multiple verbal threats and even a physical threat of violence. I reluctantly filed several verbal complaints along with a written complaint regarding the extreme hostile work environment and potential violations of multiple county policies and procedures. This resulted in findings and remedial actions being taken. A copy of these is available for viewing at public request from the county. It saddens me that this agreement was taken advantage of by certain members of the county government due to my determination to fully serve the people of Hancock County to the best of my abilities.”

The treasurer suffered a medical event last fall, which led to further setbacks.

“Additionally, in November of 2020 I suffered a serious back injury that resulted in the temporary paralysis of my left leg, which persisted for several weeks,” Boucher said. “During this medical leave of absence, the county commissioners and county administrator held a closed-door executive session to thoroughly review my performance, something that no other elected official is subjected to. During the public portion of this meeting, a vote occurred where it was decided to decrease my compensation. This vote occurred a few days before the previously approved new budget was to come into effect. The process of creating and approving a budget is at least a four-month-long process that is legally binding upon final approval. This budget was altered due to the decrease in my compensation, which resulted in the elimination of 3/4ths of my salary.

“It is my belief that this review of my performance was justified by the county commissioners and county administrator due to the agreement of direct orientation almost two years prior. This agreement with them occurred previously to the two positive reviews that I received, yet it appears they believe this agreement will continue indefinitely no matter my strides made to become an effective county treasurer.”

Boucher works as a police officer and has previously worked as a part-time corrections officer at the Hancock County Jail. He also served a partial term on the Ellsworth City Council.

The Hancock County Commissioners have had strained relations with the county treasurer for several years. 

The county had reduced the hours and compensation for former Treasurer Janice Eldridge when it hired former Chief Financial Officer Phil Roy to lead the department. In 2015, State Auditor Pola Buckley investigated a deficit in an unorganized territory fund. During that investigation, Buckley said she determined that the commissioners had been “obstructing” the treasurer by reducing her hours and compensation. Prior to running for county treasurer, Eldridge had managed a law office. 

Chairman Bill Clark has been lobbying for an appointed treasurer for several years. 

There are no requirements to hold the office of treasurer other than to be a resident of Hancock County. Yet, the person elected to the office is expected to handle millions of dollars. 

Clark has said previously that “the county needs someone highly experienced and professional in that office. We can’t guarantee that at the ballot box.”

Sixteen years ago, in 2005, Hancock County put out a referendum question about whether residents wanted to make the county treasurer an appointed position instead of an elected one. Voters rejected that proposal by a margin of 2-1.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.

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