ELLSWORTH, Maine — In a 3-0 vote, Hancock County commissioners Friday approved a separation agreement with Philip Roy, who has been the county’s chief financial officer for more than six years.
In a separate unanimous vote, they also agreed to eliminate the CFO position altogether.
Percy “Joe” Brown, chairman of the county commission, said Friday that the county decided to eliminate the position because Gene Conlogue, the county administrator, has assumed a lot of the CFO’s duties since he was appointed to the newly-created position earlier this year.
Roy missed a lot of work while on an extended sick leave, Brown acknowledged without going into details, but that is unrelated to the county’s decision to terminate him, he said. According to the county’s records, Roy had taken nearly nine weeks of sick leave since Jan. 1 of this year.
Contacted Friday at his home in Fairfield, Roy, who also is an elected Somerset County commissioner, declined to comment on the separation agreement or on the Hancock County commissioners’ decision to eliminate his position. But, during the brief conversation, he did say good things about his job.
“It was a pleasure to work for the people of Hancock County,” Roy said. “I really enjoyed working there.”
Roy has been a frequent target of criticism by various officials in and out of county government since he was hired in early 2009, but county commissioners have consistently defended the work he has done for Hancock County.
The CFO position itself has been controversial. Just last month, the state auditor issued a report calling into question whether the creation of the position and it responsibilities might have violated state law by infringing upon the statutory requirements of the county’s elected treasurer.
Brown said Friday that the decision to eliminate the CFO position has nothing to do with the state auditor’s report, the findings of which he disagrees with. When commissioners decided last year to create the county administrator position, he said, one of the tasks they had in mind was for the administrator to reorganize the division of labor in the county’s financial affairs office, as well as other departments.
“Phil has done a lot of good things for the county,” Brown said.
Among those things was the refinancing of the county’s construction loan for its jail, completed in 2001, which saved the county $280,000, the commissioner said. Roy similarly saved the county more than $100,000 by refinancing a subsequent loan to make improvements to the county courthouse.
“Mr. Roy has worked for the county for the past six years and the commissioners and staff wish him well in his future endeavors,” Brown said during the meeting Friday while reading from a prepared statement.
Conlogue said after the meeting that Roy was not under contract but that the commissioners thought he deserved a severance package. In the agreement, Roy is expected to receive six weeks worth of additional salary, plus payment for whatever unused sick and vacation time he may have, and will continue to to be covered by the county’s health insurance policy through the end of September.
The value of the pay and benefits Roy will get as a result of the agreement is roughly $24,000, according to Conlogue. Roy’s annual salary for 2015 was $58,311.
Conlogue added that, with the separation agreement, Roy has promised not to pursue any claims against the county. Roy has verbally agreed to the terms of separation but it does not become final until it is signed by Roy, which Conlogue said he hoped would happen later that day.
Within a year of being hired, Roy became a frequent focal point of disputes among Hancock County officials. At one point, Janice Eldridge, the county’s elected treasurer, feuded with Roy over how he managed the county’s money and over access to filing cabinets that contain the county’s paper financial records.
In June 2011, the manager of the county airport filed a complaint with commissioners over Roy’s management of airport funds. The commissioners later dismissed the complaint after the Federal Aviation Administration, which sets rules for how airports that receive federal funding can manage their money, told the county to use better bookkeeping practices but determined the funds had not been used improperly.
Then, in May 2012, Roy came under wide public scrutiny after the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting published a story about how Roy used $15,000 of funds he managed for the Maine Republican Party and for a federally funded agency in the Waterville area to buy himself a camper in August 2009. Roy later repaid the funds and was never charged with violating the law.
About a month after the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting story was published, several current and former county officials placed an advertisement in a local weekly newspaper urging voters not to cast their ballots for any of the incumbent commissioners because of “a series of improprieties in the county’s financial office.”
The ad proved ineffective, however, as Steve Joy, the only incumbent commissioner seeking re-election that year, won another four-year term after running unopposed that fall.