September 05, 2018OSSIPEE — Dismissed by two county commissioners as nothing more than "grandstanding" and an attempt to gain votes, Carroll County Delegation Chairman Mark McConkey (R-Freedom) nevertheless voiced his concerns Aug. 22 about the financial condition of the county.
McConkey spoke at the county commissioners' weekly meeting (available for viewing at www.governmentoversite.com), pointing out that the delegation's concerns about mistakes in elected officials' pay, quarterly budget vs. actual reports taking months to produce, department heads not having real-time access to their budgets, and sexual harassment and bullying policies not being updated with input from the county attorney. He said the commissioners have also refused to give him an update about the status of the 2017 financial audit, work that was supposed to begin back in March. And while McConkey noted these are all important concerns and the delegation deserves a response, it is the two-month lack of response from the county administration that is the most troublesome.
"I am concerned that the financial sins of the commissioners prior to 2015 have not been corrected, and we are sliding back to a lax state of accounting," said McConkey, adding that financial policies are not being followed, deposits are delayed, and bank statements are not being reconciled for months at a time.
"There is an ongoing problem (with workplace bullying and sexual harassment) on our campus, and this issue continues to erode our workplace stability. I stand here because I can no longer sit quiet. You need to right your ship and prevent the Carroll County taxpayers from being placed in financial peril because your egos are bruised," said McConkey.
"Become part of the solution, or get the hell out of the way," McConkey added.
He was followed by Carroll County Attorney Michaela Andruzzi, who told commissioners, "I need real time access to my department budget. I am a department head, and I am trying to manage the salaries of my people and to fill openings that I have in my office.
"In the last four months, I have requested (from the county business office) real-time access to my salary line items 22 times, and still do not have it. This is public information," Andruzzi said.
Under the New Hampshire Right to Know law, anyone requesting public information may do so verbally, and the recipient of the request, in this case the commissioners, has five business days to either provide the information or respond in writing with reasons why the information cannot be provided or when it will be. As of press time, it is unclear whether Andruzzi's request was acknowledged.
Andruzzi, along with Registrar of Deeds Lisa Scott, has also asked that that her annual salary be corrected because they have not been paid properly. Every two years the county delegation sets the annual salary for county attorney, register of deeds, commissioners, sheriff and treasurer. Andruzzi and Scott have been claiming they are owed about $4,000 combined, a claim county administration has denied and one that Hounsell dismissed, saying the underpayment was only 18 cents.
In an interview Sept. 3, Chairman Amanda Bevard said the actual amount the seven elected officials were underpaid is nearly $9,000. And, this retired math teacher planned to bring the math and the solution to the Sept. 5 commissioner's meeting. The results of that were not available as of press time.
The commissioners did not respond to either McConkey or Andruzzi while the two were still sitting in the audience, but did make a few accusations later in their meeting. Commissioner Mark Hounsell dismissed McConkey's comments, noting the September Primary (which he referred to as "silly season") is a few weeks away, and that McConkey is just trying to gain votes. Commissioner David Babson said it was just political grandstanding, and if the county delegation had funded their budget request for additional office staff, none of the issues would be occurring.
Both Hounsell and Babson are seeking re-election this year with Hounsell opposed in the Sept. 11 Primary by Terry McCarthy (R-Conway) and Babson unopposed.
The county delegation is made up of the 15 state representatives from Carroll County. Their next meeting is Sept. 17, and starts with a public hearing to consider adding to the 2018 county budget set back in March. The commissioners asked for the budget additions including $10,400 for an administrative assistant, $80,000 to fund the cost of the 9-month negotiated nursing home union contract, as well as money for funding the sheriff's office/dispatch center union contract and $10,000 for a feasibility study to explore assisted living for elderly Carroll County residents.
Additionally, the delegation will consider a request from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to give back nearly $200,000 to help fund the Region 7 Integrated Delivery Network. From the North Country Health Consortium website, the IDN is "a statewide initiative focused on bringing together physical healthcare, mental health, and substance use disorder treatment. As part of the project, 40 partners in Coös, Carroll, and Northern Grafton Counties have joined together… to make it easier for people to connect with helpful resources in the community and get the care they need with the goals of making people healthier, saving money and more effectively caring for those with multiple healthcare needs."
The public is encouraged to attend and ask questions. The hearing starts at 9 a.m. in the county administration building in Ossipee. Following the hearing, the delegation will take up other matters including approving an update to the 2015 performance audit of the county business office and whether or not to enter into a multi-year county complex energy improvement contract.
While the delegation and the commissioners remain at odds including battling it out through slurry of emails and in the editorial pages of local newspapers, there is another issue looming. Ed Comeau (R-Brookfield), as reported previously, has filed a lawsuit in Carroll County Superior Court alleging that the commissioners broke two laws – one that requires the 2017 annual report to be published by June and the other that required the 2017 audit to be done by March 31.
When Chairman Amanda Bevard tried to suggest that the commissioners may have broken the law by not having the reports done on time, Hounsell stormed out of the Aug. 22 meeting. Hounsell also called Comeau's suit "unconstitutional" and "extremely inappropriate."
Bevard maintains that if the board of commissioners or their staff have done something wrong, they should own up to it and fix it.