Treasurer training went on for months, cost town $4G

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LEBANON - After more than six weeks of wrangling with Lebanon selectmen over the release of hours the interim treasurer worked with the current treasurer after he was hired in June, the number of training hours Lebanon paid have been released.

Jordan Miles, the current treasurer and grandson of longtime former Lebanon selectman and transfer station manager Ronal Patch, was hired as treasurer - and the Right to Know officer - amid concerns of nepotism due to his relationship with Patch as well as his connections to two of the three current town selectmen who are former longtime employees of the transfer station where Patch was their boss.

Miles' hiring was widely criticized within the town as another example of nepotism and cronyism that has haunted town government for decades.

A part-time employee of the town highway department under Road Commissioner Tom Torno, and a former salesman at Staples and Bootleggers, Miles was hired with no experience or training as treasurer save for an accounting class at USM where he was a political science major with a minor in Spanish. Other course work listed on his resume included advanced grammar, conversation courses, government and economics.

After he was hired by a unanimous vote of selectmen in June, the interim treasurer worked a total of 205.5 hours through Oct. 1 at the hourly rate of $22, the same salary currently paid Miles.

As a training reference point, two former Seacoast town treasurers told The Lebanon Voice they never worked more than one or two days learning the ropes when taking on a new position, whether it be at a government level, or a private company.

"Aanyone with any financial background should be able to jump right in," said one. "Accounting is accounting whether it's for a town or a business."

Both asked that their names not be used as they still worked in the area professionally in accounting roles.

Miles was hired on June 6 after a 15-minute executive session and an hourlong previous discussion by selectmen on June 1.

Of the nine who applied for the job, three including Miles were called in for interviews, but one didn't show, selectmen said.

In July the Lebanon Board of Selectmen rejected a Lebanon Voice Right to Know request asking for resumes of all those who applied for the town treasurer's position.

The Lebanon Voice sought resumes of all applicants to ensure that the most qualified candidate for the treasurer position had been hired, especially in the face of possible conflict of interest issues arising out of Selectmen Royce Heath's and Paul Nadeau's former employment at the transfer station, issues that have arisen before.

It was just a year and a half ago that Heath and Nadeau - in questionable if not illegal fashion - voted to give Patch full-time town benefits for his 25-hour-a-week job, benefits that the former board had eliminated less than a month before.

Since there was a clear conflict of interest, those votes were judged illegal and voided and in a second vote, both Heath and Nadeau properly recused themselves while former selectmen chair Ben Thompson voted against it. That vote put the threshold for benefits back to 35 hours.

After that June 2, 2015, vote, Nadeau, asked if he thought it was appropriate for him to have voted for something that financially benefited his boss to the tune of more than $3,000 annually, said, "It might not be fair, but I done it."

Heath, meanwhile, said he thought they were voting on acknowledging a letter brought in by Patch during the meeting asking to have his benefits "grandfathered" at the 25-hour threshold instead of voting to approve it.

Both Heath and Nadeau resigned from their transfer station jobs soon thereafter.

It should be noted that the Right to Know request from The Lebanon Voice also urged redacting of names on resumes if selectmen were sensitive to privacy concerns, but selectmen steadfastly denied their release.

At an August selectmen's meeting The Lebanon Voice asked selectmen whether the hiring of Miles might draw accusations of cronyism and nepotism drawing a rebuke from Selectboard Chair Christine Torno.

"I cannot worry about that," Torno said. "We've had long conversations about that, and he's a good candidate. I think what people perceive is what they perceive, but we made the right decision."

Selectman Paul Nadeau, meanwhile, seemingly aware of the extended training the new treasurer was getting from the interim treasurer, expressed confidence that the town would be glad they hired Miles down the road.
"In six months you'll be glad we chose him," Nadeau opined.

During the four months that the interim treasurer continued to work with Miles, she received $4,521 in salary, according to town records recently released. That, of course, was in addition to his full-time $22 an hour pay.

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