LACONIA — Belknap County commissioners voted 2-1 Thursday morning to put County Administrator Deborah Shackett in charge of the Finance Department and to give her the authority to hire workers without prior approval of the commissioners.
The actions comes in the wake of two recent resignations from the Finance Department, Director Glen Waring who left in March and assistant finance director Marie Mora who left earlier this month. That left only one person, who is in charge of payroll, in the department.
The county has been advertising to fill the finance director's position by reclassifying it to an account manager position but as yet has not filled it.
Both Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) and Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) supported the move, which was opposed by Rep. Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton).
Taylor pointed out that Shackett had previous experience at running the Finance Department and would have the same ability to fill positions in the department without commissioner approval as is the current practice for the county Corrections Department and the Nursing Home.
Burchell said that it was ''a gradual retreat'' from positions the commission had previously taken regarding its authority in directing the operations of county government.
He has been at odds with his fellow commissioners ever since late January and was removed from his position as chairman of the commission by them at a stormy meeting on March 2.
When he and DeVoy took office in early January it was announced at the first meeting that commissioners would not be delegating their authority to appointed employees and that all department heads would report directly to them. Burchell said at that time that the Administration Department headed by Shackett would serve in a support role.
Burchell split with his fellow commissioners in February over the proposed county budget. He proposed his own idea for a budget, which among other things would have achieved savings by eliminating the county administrator's position.
He has long been at odds with Shackett and in an e-mail to members of the Belknap County Convention seeking support for his proposed reorganization of county government was critical of both Shackett and Waring.
But his proposal drew no support from his fellow commissioners, who said that he appeared to be pursuing a personal grudge that they wanted no part of.
Commissioners learned yesterday that there will be another employee leaving the county. Angela Bovill, administrative assistant in Shackett's office, who has been hired by the town of Gilford as administrative assistant to Town Administrator Scott Dunn.
DeVoy said that he expects that Shackett will have a list of proposed members of a Criminal Justice Committee ready for the next meeting of the commission on May 6. The committee will review the county criminal justice system in preparation for the anticipated creation of a new community corrections facility.
She is aiding Corrections Department Superintendent Dan Ward and Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin in finding people who will serve on the committee.
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