SKOWHEGAN — Gerald York, the incumbent Somerset County commissioner for District 1, will face a familiar foe in the upcoming elections.

York is challenged on the ballot by former County Commissioner and Chairman Philip Roy. It will be the third time the men, both Fairfield residents, will have faced one another.

York, who was appointed to the commission in 2004 to finish the term of Zane Libby, was defeated by Roy in 2006. York, in turn, defeated Roy in a rematch in 2008.

They meet again on the ballot Nov. 6.

Roy, a longtime town councilor in Fairfield, came under public scrutiny earlier this year with a published report of his alleged mishandling of money of the Central/Western Workforce Investment Board, where he worked as fiscal agent in 2009. Roy on Friday acknowledged he used $15,000 from the investment board, as well as money from the Maine Republican Party, for his personal use to pay for a camper, but denied any wrongdoing.

The money was borrowed and paid back in full and no charges ever were brought, he said.

“I’ve been investigated and fully vetted by everybody from the AG’s office to the FBI,” he said. “I’ve never been indicted. I’ve never been convicted. I’ve never been accused.

“There’s never been any charges and there’s no anticipation of charges ever being brought. It’s three years old. It wasn’t a story then; it isn’t a story now.”

Roy said he had permission to use the money, but acknowledged that if he had it to do over again, he would not use other people’s money in the same way.

“Hind sight being 20/20, I wouldn’t have done it,” he said.

Roy resigned his position at the investment board and stepped down as state GOP treasurer as a result.

Steven Joy, chairman of the Hancock County commissioners, the three-member board that oversees Roy’s work as chief financial officer, said Roy is an employee in good standing.

“He’s doing the job that we are paying him to do and he’s doing a very good job for us,” Joy said. “Our treasurer had died when he came along. … Some things had been ignored for a while, and we sort of reclaimed county government and control of the county government, and Phil was sort of the lightning rod of that.

“He took a lot of the abuse from some of the department heads who had gained a great deal of authority while our treasurer was ill. We have taken back control of our finances, and Phil has been a major part of that.”

York said he is seeking a return to office because he believes in the importance of county government and the role of county commissioners, he said. He declined to discuss Roy’s past activities.

The most important issue facing Somerset County this election year, York said, is county taxes.

“We are in the process of getting legislation that would help alleviate the debt incurred with the building of the jail,” York said. “It was a very unfair process from the beginning. We built the jail on the premise that would could pay down the debt with revenue from the boarding of prisoners, and they took that away from us.”

York also said he would work to bring new businesses to Somerset County as another way of bringing down taxes. He pointed to the vacant former county jail, which county commissioners sold in 2009 to become the Somerset Grist Mill.

“We’ve brought jobs to Somerset County, and this is important,” he said. “The incentive from the success of the grist mill has been like a fever. It’s widespread all over Somerset County.”

York said he should be re-elected because has helped bring jobs to farmers and artisans who now sell their products at the farmers’ market at the grist mill.

Roy said he wants to return to Somerset County government to help steer the region in a positive direction with economic development. He said regionalizing efforts would be a good place to start.

“We should be looking at expanding our information technology to other municipalities. We have probably one of the best technology departments in the state due to our upgrade at the new $30 million jail,” Roy said. “We should be offering that staff to save them money. We have the ability to do the assessing for the municipalities in Somerset County.”

He said a regional approach to police coverage and to emergency dispatching, through the county communications center, would streamline the work that needs to be done and save taxpayers money. Roy agreed with York that legislation needs to be in place to make sure the state pays its share on the debt for building the county jail in East Madison.

“I’m going to lower taxes and I’m going to bring more efficient government here in Somerset County,” Roy said.

 

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

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