OSSIPEE — Carroll County has a new chief financial officer.
Fergus Cullen, 48, of Dover will be starting work on Monday. He comes to Carroll County after having served as chief financial officer of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover for the past four years. He also has served as a Dover City Councilor since October and was the New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman from 2007-09.
He lived in Wolfeboro for eight years and served on budget committee as well as coaching the boys and girls cross country team for Kingswood Regional High School. Cullen's wife's name is Jennifer. They have three children. As for hobbies, Cullen likes to run and climb mountains.
According to Carroll County Director of Human Resources Christopher Heroux, the position was posted to various online platforms July 27 and 15 "well-qualified" applicants from across the country
"However, two in particular stood out from the pack not only for their financial management acumen but because they also benefited from years of experience in the public sector," said Heroux.
"After much deliberation, the position was offered to Fergus Cullen," he said. Cullen will officially begin work on Sept. 21.
The salary is $88,000 per year during the six-month probationary period.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Cullen said that prior to living in Dover he lived in Wolfeboro for eight years and served on the budget committee there for four years. His parents, Mary and Tom, lived in Sandwich for many years.
Cullen is stepping into a county finance office that's been wrapped in turmoil for years. "I understand that the county has gone through a bit of a rough patch in some respects but the fundamentals are all very strong," said Cullen.
"The county is in a solid financial position. They have just been a little understaffed, I think, on the finance end."
Cullen said he will be bringing "capacity and leadership" to the finance department. With him at the helm, the department will have five employees.
"I'm confident we will be able to get things on the right track here in the fullness of time," said Cullen.
St. Thomas has a $7 million budget, and the county has a $34 million budget. Although the county has a much larger budget, Cullen says the work he did there has similarities. He says working for the county isn't just about numbers, it's about people.
"The county provides really valuable services to very important and sometimes vulnerable populations," said Cullen. "We should never forget that it's about serving people and in this case it's about serving the county."
The county has not had a finance director in years. The previous one, Chuck Stuart, was hired in September of 2015 and did not stay long.
Frustrated by the lack of information coming out of Carroll County's business office and commissioners, the legislative delegation Monday voted to launch a subcommittee to examine decisions made by the business office.
The delegation members said Finance Director Kathy Armstrong is being overworked.
This year, they are particularly concerned that the 2019 audit isn't complete and that the audit firm, Melanson, has dropped the county as a client. What's more, even treasurer Joe Costello has been complaining for months he can't get information from the business office and that staff there treat him like a "child."
On Monday, the delegation voted to create a subcommittee to look into what they believe is a budget transfer involving moving money from the salary line to the legal settlement line.
The delegation also considered having the same committee or a different committee look into why Costello isn't getting access to financial records and why the audit is so late. However, the delegation decided to table discussion of those investigations until mid October.
"I think that what has gone on here today has been a clear message to the Commissioners that we are a little unhappy with what is currently going on," said Delegation clerk Lino Avellani (R-Wakefield) giving a summation of the situation. "Don't think the motion to table will not be taken off the table if we don't see some progress."
The Sun asked Armstrong what happened and she explained the situation in a brief email to the Sun.
"I explained to the Delegation that the settlement amount would have to go through payroll initially because it is subject to payroll taxes and needs to be on the W2, after the checks were cut I had to do a journal entry to move the funds from the salary and related payroll lines to the settlement line," said Armstrong. "It was not a budget adjustment. It was all explained during the budget process. I don’t know what the problem is, I did exactly what I told them I would have to do."
In a follow up email, Armstrong said "A budget adjustment done for a subsequent settlement after the Budget was passed – this was approved by the Commissioners on May 6th and by the Delegation Executive Committee on May 8 for $168,577."
Bevard told the Sun she believes that the business office did nothing wrong and is reviewing videos of county meetings to get to the bottom of the situation.
After a long discussion Monday, Commissioner Terry McCarthy (R-Conway) convinced the the delegation to hold off on forming a committee to look at the audit and Costello's complaints. Since Commissioner David Babson (R-Ossipee) who appeared by Zoom, couldn't hear McCarthy she made her point twice.
"I said that I thought that the other two investigations that you wanted to have taken place would be a waste of time," said McCarthy. "We have hired a CFO to start on (Sept. 21) with the direction of reorganization and letting us know who is able to do what, cross train or eliminate (positions)."