Harpswell referendum would change hiring of town treasurer
HARPSWELL — Voters on Election Day will decide whether they want the Board of Selectmen to appoint the town treasurer.
Treasurer traditionally has been an elected position, Selectman Jim Henderson said. But he said the state's low qualification requirements leave the job vulnerable to electing an under-qualified treasurer.
The only qualifications are that the treasurer be at least 18 years old, a Maine resident and a U.S. citizen.
The two other selectmen agree, according to a written explanation available on the town's website.
"The Selectmen find that those requirements fall far short of the qualifications needed for the Treasurer of the Town of Harpswell in this day and age," according to the document.
If voters give the board power to appoint the treasurer, the selectmen said they will be able to hire someone who is qualified to maintain the town's budget and other assets in a responsible manner.
"When considering someone to be responsible for more than $15 million, including the Town's budget and borrowings and the Harpswell share of both the County and MSAD 75 budgets, the State requirements are just totally inadequate," the document continued. "Having an appointed Treasurer will allow the Town to establish qualifications for the position when it becomes vacant. It will permit the Town to check references and to take all the normal steps that any prudent business operator would take in an effort to assure the employment of someone equal to the task."
Henderson said Treasurer Maguerite Kelly has done an "incredible" job.
The Board of Selectmen will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 to hear feedback from anyone who has questions, comments or concerns about the referendum. The town is also soliciting comments on its website at http://www.harpswell.maine.gov.
Henderson said while he hasn't heard any opposition to the referendum, he can imagine what the arguments can be.
"I think there will be some (opposition) because some people will argue that the town treasurer has been elected for years," and it serves as an independent check on the town's finances, the selectman said.
But since an annual independent audit is already performed, Henderson said, there is no reason to doubt the money will be in questionable hands.
Election Day is Nov. 6.