ROME — Selectmen have yet to hire an administrative assistant more than six months after residents voted to approve the position and have diverted money earmarked for the post to other needs.

Residents in Rome overwhelmingly supported the creation of the position at their annual Town Meeting in March, but selectmen said at a meeting Tuesday that they are still working on a job description and had no further updates when pressed for more information.

Discussion at the meeting became tense at times when residents asked the three selectmen when they will release a job description and whether a hiring process had been established.

Richard LaBelle, a member of the town’s budget committee and the town manager in Norridgewock, questioned some expenses made by officials after he received documents from the town’s treasurer to see what money has been spent at this point in the year. He said he had inquired at an earlier selectmen’s meeting whether they intended to hire for the position and was told that they did not. LaBelle also said he was told that no money initially earmarked for the position had been spent.

“At the last meeting we had some discussions about the administrative assistant, the salary and how folks are being paid and we were categorically told there had been no money expended from any of your authorized accounts, given that it’s a line item proposed at Town Meeting that passed overwhelmingly,” LaBelle said. “The townspeople voted in March that we want the (administrative assistant) position and we don’t want the (selectmen’s assistant) and I asked about your intention to hire and you said no.”

“That was fine when you weren’t spending money. Now we’ve spent $7,000 on the position that the town has said we don’t want,” he said.

Residents in March voted to spend $152,192 for municipal officers and officials’ salaries. The administrative assistant would work full time and receive benefits as part of a salary of $41,784.

Town records show that from March to Sept. 30, $5,895 was spent from the account intended to cover the salary for an administrative assistant.

“Those line-item budgets do not allow for shifting from one item to the other,” LaBelle said. “What is the board’s intention? Is the board going to hire an administrative assistant?”

First Selectman Paul Anderson said that the board had “started working on a job description that is not complete.”

Resident Steven McCarthy requested that Anderson share the draft that the board has worked on but Anderson declined.

“I’m not going to send out a document every time I cross a T and dot an I,” Anderson said. “(The job description) is handwritten notes.”

There was also some debate about money spent on a selectmen’s assistant and Anderson said the assistant needed to be paid for the work she has been providing.

“You’re refusing to show us, the taxpayers, a public document,” McCarthy said. “I think we would like to see how our money is spent. When it’s a line-item budget, it has to stay within that.”

Anderson explained that, “We are funding the old position from the administrative assistant fund because there’s no other way to do it. Just because the town said ‘We want this and we don’t want this’ doesn’t mean that the salary went away and that person went away when we adjourned the meeting.”

Calls to the town office and to the town’s attorney seeking additional details were not returned Wednesday. The Morning Sentinel has filed a request under the state Freedom of Access Act to review the drafted job description as well as receive other related material.

Anderson said selectmen plan to have a hiring timeline completed “before the end of the fiscal year.”


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