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County Commissioners exchange heated words over salaries

May 23, 2018
OSSIPEE — Carroll County Commissioner Mark Hounsell (R-Conway) called out his fellow elected county officials Monday, noting it is "very unbecoming" for them to request a pay raise.

Every two years, prior to the June filing period opening, the county delegation is charged with setting salaries for the county attorney, sheriff, treasurer, register of deeds, and the county commissioners. They held that discussion at their May 21 meeting.

In a slew of split votes, some 7-6 and others 6-7, after a lengthy and, at times, contentious discussion, the delegation finally set the salaries. In their final vote, they approved $55,000 for the registrar of deeds, $65,018 for the sheriff and $77,932 for the county attorney. The delegation also approved a $6,000 annual salary for county treasurer and $9,500 annual salary for each of the three commissioners.

Rep. Mark McConkey (R-Freedom) started by making the first motion, hoping to increase the salaries by three percent – the same increase given to state employees.

Giving percentage increases without first bringing the salaries up to a competitive wage did not sit well with many of the delegates, however.

County Attorney Michaela Andruzzi spoke in support of larger increases for herself as well as the sheriff and registrar.

"I have never seen a sheriff work so hard. The first four words out of his mouth are 'How can I help?'" said Andruzzi, noting that the Sheriff's Department picks up a lot of slack for the communities in the county that do not have full-time police departments. She added that public safety is not something that the delegation should short change.

"We should not be looking for the cheapest county attorney, the cheapest registrar and the cheapest sheriff. We should be looking for the best," said Andruzzi.

McConkey pushed back against the suggestion that salaries keep away qualified candidates for these offices. Rep. Edie DesMarais (D-Wolfeboro), however, agreed with the comments in letters received from area police chiefs. Those letters reportedly called to increases to the county attorney's salary, noting that not doing so creates a training ground for attorneys to move on to other places or for those semi-retired to be elected and then just ride out their retirement on a part-time basis. said if the positions are going to be kept competitive, a competitive salary needs to be paid.

"We are having difficulty getting qualified people to run because we don't pay a competitive salary," said DesMarais.

Though he voted along with the majority in shutting down pay increases that would have brought the positions up to the statewide average, Rep. Frank McCarthy (R-Conway) did make a bold statement in support of moving away from the haphazard salary setting for the sheriff, registrar and county attorney.

"Most of my life was in the military, and there were two things that you had to do to do your job properly in the military – accomplish your mission and look out for your subordinates or troops. We all agree that the pay for attorney, sheriff and registrar are extremely low compared to the rest of the state," he said.

He asked for a marketplace adjustment to bring the salaries up to the statewide average, plus a three percent raise with a plan for cost of living raises in the future so these salaries "don't fall behind again and again and again."

While others also spoke in support of the marketplace adjustments and extending family health insurance plans to the three positions, Rep. Lino Avellani (R-Wakefield) called the comments and support of wage increases nothing more than "grandstanding" in an election year.

The new salaries will take effect Jan. 1, 2019, and remain in effect for two years. The filing period runs June 6 through June 15 for anyone interested in running for county and state positions.

Garnet Hill
Martin Lord Osman
Penny Pitou
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