Sunday, December 6, 2009


Here are some of the issues and projects facing the Office of the Ulster County Comptroller for the month of December 2009.

1) An extensive audit of the $183,000+ medical bills for convicted killer Anthony Passaro Jr., while he was in the custody of the Ulster County Sheriff. Early indications are that there may be overcharges and duplicate billing.
2) An appeal to the Ulster County Legislature who diverted $92,000 from the Comptroller’s budget in order to gain control and authority over the county’s independent outside audit.
3) A review and report of the obligations of the County to reimburse school districts for unpaid taxes.
4) A review and report of the hotel/motel bed tax.
5) A review and report of EZ-PASS use by Ulster County employees.
6) A review and report of vehicle fuel consumption.
7) A review and report of mileage reimbursement to County employees using personal vehicles to conduct county business.
8) A “report card” on 2009 legislator attendance at monthly meetings, public hearings and committee meetings.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Caught By His Own Hook!


Videotape showing an Ulster County man fishing waist deep in a running stream will be used as evidence against him when he is prosecuted for fraud in connection with collecting $35,000 in disability benefits.

Matthew W. Robbins, 48, of Church Street, Kerhonkson, is scheduled to appear in Kingston City Court on Tuesday. He was arrested Nov. 13 as the result of an investigation by the New York State Insurance Department’s Frauds Bureau and the New York State Insurance Fund.

Robbins claimed to have strained his back when picking up a water pump while working at a day camp. He collected disability benefits from the Insurance Fund for nearly 10 years and testified at two workers’ compensation hearings that the injury left him totally disabled and unable to work.

However, Joseph W. Kochetta Jr., of the Insurance Department’s Frauds Bureau, said investigators subsequently recorded videotape of Robbins while he was driving, power washing and repairing vehicles and fishing.

Robbins was charged with insurance fraud, committing fraudulent practices and workers’ compensation fraud. He could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison if convicted. He was released in his own recognizance pending his hearing.

The case is being prosecuted by William Andrews of the Insurance Department, who is acting as a special prosecutor for Ulster County District Attorney D. Holley Carnright.
(Released By NYS Insurance Dept)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ulster Health Department report reveals “culture of incompetence”

Ulster Health Department report reveals “culture of incompetence”

Documents piled up in the health department

KINGSTON – Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach Friday called the former operation of the county Health Department “a culture of incompetence.”

He released his 45 page report that talks over the violation of public trust, safety and health issues, questionable payroll practices and a culture of incompetence.

The report was prompted following the dismissal of Director Dean Palen earlier this year by County Executive Michael Hein. That was precipitated by the discovery of $32,000 in uncashed checks and unissued permits found in a locked safe behind the desk of Palen’s wife, who was his administrative assistant.

The comptroller’s office also discovered piles of sanitary sewer applications, public reports and employee grievances that indicated both ineffective internal management and a lack of meaningful external oversight.

“The Palen era was riddled with questionable leadership and a ‘general lack of timely enforcement of the Public Health Law and State Sanitary Code’,” said Auerbach. “The only saving grace was the dedication and commitment of the staffs of the Environmental Sanitation and Public Nursing Divisions. Without them the county would have been in jeopardy.”

(Copyright © 2009 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.
This story may not be reproduced in any form without express written consent.)

Comptroller's investigation reveals mismanagement, nepotism at Ulster County Health Department |

Comptroller's investigation reveals mismanagement, nepotism at Ulster County Health Department |

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Ulster Health Department audit to be completed shortly

KINGSTON – Ulster County Comptroller Elliot Auerbach’s audit of the county Health Department should be finished in the next several days.

Auerbach said his staff has been working on it for months and it should be ready soon.

“We hope that the Health Department report will be ready for publication somewhere in the middle of this month,” he said. “We worked diligently on reviewing and looking back at every fact that is in the report. We want to insure that all the ‘I’s’ are dotted and the ‘T’s’ are crossed before it’s released.”

The comptroller has been examining why large numbers of uncashed checks were in a department safe for years and other possible irregularities in the operation of the agency.

(Copyright © 2009 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.
This story may not be reproduced in any form without express written consent.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ulster lawmakers hold off on appropriating funds to cover jail inmate’s medical bills

KINGSTON – The Ulster County Legislature has again decided to wait before it approves covering $188,000 in medical expenses of county jail inmate Anthony Passaro, Jr., the man who shot and killed his wife.

He remains in jail, too sick to be sentenced. That means the county must continue to pay his medical bills.

County Comptroller Elliot Auerbach urged lawmakers not to jump into things until his office had an opportunity to go over each bill line by line.

Legislator Jeanette Provenzano Wednesday said the consensus was to hold off on a vote.

“The Ways and Means Committee has requested the comptroller to review it for us because we have too many different interpretations so it’s referred until we have adequate information to pay that expense,” she said.

Officials hope the bills will be reimbursable through Medicaid.

(Copyright © 2009 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Auerbach urges lawmakers to hold off on paying inmate medical bills..
KINGSTON – Ulster County Comptroller Elliot Auerbach Monday urged the county legislature to postpone paying the medical bills of convicted killer and county jail inmate Anthony Passaro, Jr.

He is awaiting sentencing on the conviction that he shot and killed his wife.

The legislature is ready to approve paying the $187,978 in medical bills incurred while he remains in jail, but Auerbach asked lawmakers to hold off.

“There are too many unanswered questions about these medical expenses,” he said. “We need to review not only the appropriateness of each bill, but also the chain of custody and scope of responsibility for the incurred costs.”

Auerbach said the bill cannot be paid without verification and audit by his office, “so it is too soon to move such funds from the contingency fund.”

Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the resolution at Tuesday evening’s meeting.

Copyright © 2009 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc

Thursday, November 5, 2009

KINGSTON, NY (November 4, 2009)…Over thirty people, representing twenty agencies and non-profits will be attending the PIRATES OF THE NOT-FOR-PROFIT training on Thursday, November 5, 2009 hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Ulster County and presented by Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach and NYS Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Garin.

The program will discuss fraud prevention, improving internal controls and conflicts of interest
and provide board members and officers with the tools to safeguard their resources.

Sponsored by the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce as a Business Roundtable, the event will be held on Thursday, November 5th from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Kingston Holiday Inn, 503 Washington Avenue. Breakfast will be served and the event is free with an advance reservation. Contact Bob Hirsh at 845-338-5100 or to reserve.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

BETTER BUSING.....Ulster shrinks the bus and increases the efficiency!

New Vehicles to Enhance Services with Lower Costs and Emissions

Kingston, NY (October 29, 2009) -The first of seven new buses, fully fundedby federal stimulus
funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), has arrived at Ulster County’s
Area Transit System (UCAT) headquarters. Total funding for the seven buses, scheduled for delivery
this year and next, is approximately $1.43 million.

UCAT buses serve commuters, shoppers and visitors in virtually every area of the County.
UCAT offers low-cost fares for everyone and additional discount programs for seniors and
disabled persons. Services include access routes for rural residents, curbside pick-up by
appointment, intra-municipal bus routes designed to relieve traffic congestion and special
routes that link Ulster County communities to the Metro-North train station, in Poughkeepsie.
The new buses will enhance all of these services, with the added benefit of lower operating
costs and lower emissions.

The new bus, valued at $66,000, is one of five smaller “cutaway” models arriving in the next
two weeks and holds 20 passengers. The new buses are designed to serve rural routes and
replace larger and less fuel efficient models. Two, larger 35 foot hybrid buses, valued at $550,000
apiece, operate at double the fuel efficiency of current models and will arrive next year. The hybrid
buses produce far fewer emissions than the current diesel units and will be utilized in more urban
sections of the County where passenger volume is higher.

“Ulster County is moving towards a smaller, cleaner and more fuel efficient fleet, while keeping
the seating capacity from the older fleet,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. “This vehicle
replacement program is a win on many levels. It lowers operating and maintenance costs, provides
a safer and more reliable fleet and significantly reduces emissions. And, the fact that it is fully funded
by federal stimulus dollars means no impact on local taxpayers.”

Information regarding UCAT fares, schedules and service areas is available online at: or by calling (845) 340-3333.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rating Reflects County’s Solid Financial Position, Strong Fund Balance and Low Debt

Kingston, NY (October 28, 2009) - Ulster County Executive Mike Hein is pleased to
announce that Standard and Poor’s has affirmed Ulster County’s favorable, AA- long-term

In reaffirming the County’s rating, Standard and Poor’s cited Ulster County’s continued solid
financial position and strong fund balance levels, despite decreases in tax revenues, along
with the County’s low overall debt profile and manageable capital plan. Standard and Poor’s
rating follows a similar positive rating made by Moody’s Investor’s Services in June of this year.

County Executive Hein said, “The investment community has recognized that we are making
the tough decisions required to manage Ulster County’s finances during these difficult times.
Standard and Poor’s has seen we will make the same hard choices American families are
making everyday. This rating is an acknowledgement of our sound management practices as
we work to deliver essential services and protect Ulster County taxpayers.”

“The Standard and Poor’s affirmation reflects a very well managed government that has
excellent financial policies in place. It is impressive because it has occurred during some
of the most difficult financial times,” said Ulster County Comptroller Elliot Auerbach.

(Comptroller's note-The bond rating determines the amount of interest the municipality has to pay to borrow money, akin to a consumer's credit score). The better the rating, the less the county has to pay and that translates into huge potential savings on bond issuance.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ulster County Man Accused Of Falsifying Insurance Claim

(News from New York State Insurance Department)
NEW YORK, NY (10/26/2009)(readMedia)-- An Ulster County man is scheduled to appear in the Town of Esopus Criminal Court on Tuesday to be arraigned on charges that he altered a home heating oil receipt to support a $20,000 insurance claim for damages to a home in Kingston.

Gilson DaSilva, 50, of Lakeview Terrace, Kingston, is accused of altering the receipt to show that there was oil in the home's furnace and that the residence was heated. The home, which was insured by DaSilva, was damaged by water when a frozen pipe broke in February.

New York State Insurance Department Frauds Bureau Investigator Valerie A. Burke said an investigation showed that DaSilva changed the address on a receipt for oil that had been delivered to another home. Investigators for DaSilva's insurer, Central Mutual Fire Insurance Company, found that the oil tank was empty in the home that was damaged. This contradicted DaSilva's claim that the home was heated and that the damage resulted because the furnace malfunctioned.

DaSilva is charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument and falsifying business records. He could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison if he is convicted.

William Andrews, of the Insurance Department, is prosecuting the case for the office of Ulster County District Attorney D. Holley Carnright.
(For more information contact: Ron Klug, 518-474-4567)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New county computer system advances in Ulster legislative committee

(Reprinted from MIDHUDSONNEWS.COM)

KINGTON – The purchase of a new financial system for Ulster County government is in the 2010 capital budget, but whether it will stay, with its multi-million dollar price tag, remains to be seen.

County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach has been promoting it, saying the current system is antiquated.

While she agrees one is needed, Administrative Services Committee Chairwoman Jeanette Provenzano said the continued weak economic climate will dictate its fate.

“The state is threatening to cut more revenue to local government; call-backs if you will, take back what they have already given to us,” she said. “So, we don’t know what financial situation we are going to be in.”

Development of the county capital budget, like the general budget, is up to County Executive Michael Hein, who has presented his tentative spending plan to the county legislature for its review.

Phil Terpening Passes Away ( Ulster County Legislator)

I was saddened to learn that Ulster County Legislator Philip Terpening passed away on Wednesday evening.
KINGSTON – Ulster County Legislator Philip Terpening collapsed and died Wednesday night during a political debate, County Legislature Chairman David Donaldson said Thursday morning.
Terpening, 63, was with fellow Democratic Legislator Alan Lomita when Terpening debated a Republican challenger and collapsed.

“We were running on the same team and he was responding to charges made by a Republican opponent, charges that were made about him and me, ‘if you are happy with the status quo, vote for these two,’ and Phil was very upset by the statement that was made by the Republican and collapsed soon after,” said Lomita.

Lomita said after Terpening collapsed, he was on the floor trying to revive him.

Lomita knew Terpening for 20 years. He was a Rosendale town supervisor before becoming a county legislator. “He was dedicated public servant; one of the hardest working members of the legislature.”

“He has always been there,” Donaldson said. “Phil didn’t do things because they were politically correct; he did them because they were right.”

(Our earlier story suggested that Terpening and Lomita were debating. That was not the case and regret the ambiguity of the statement.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Help Me Fight Alzheimer’s
Welcome to Memory Walk 2009 10.24.09
Some of you know my story as a son who watched his mother become devastated by Alzheimer’s and the effect it had on my father and my family. This disease is an “equal opportunity illness” that transcends age, race, gender and religion. We need to slow it down and eventually stop it and can only do that with your help.
Walk with us toward a world without Alzheimer's disease! This fall's Ulster County Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk® event takes place on Saturday, October 24, 2009 at SUNY ULSTER in Stone Ridge. Registration begins at 9:00am and the walk starts at 10:00am and we want you to get in on the action.
Sign up today at or call Karen at (845) 340-8474.
Judi and I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

DiNapoli warns of tough times ahead |

DiNapoli warns of tough times ahead |

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A morning press conference called by THE CHILDREN'S ANNEX announced an expanded focus and a new name to reflect the broadened scope of their services. Check out the new link and new look for THE CENTER FOR SPECTRUM SERVICES.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Kingston, NY (October 14, 2009) - As a result of a joint investigation by the Ulster
County Department of Social Service’s Investigations and Daycare Units and the
Town of Ulster Police Department, Tara Lober, 29, Kingston, was arrested Tuesday
October 6, 2009 and charged with Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree, a Class D
Felony. She was also charged with Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First
Degree, a Class E Felony.

The investigation concludes that Lober allegedly defrauded the Ulster County
Department of Social Services (DSS) out of $5,285.00 of daycare subsidies from
June 2008 to September 2008, by failing to report she was no longer employed, thus
making her ineligible for daycare assistance.

The Lober investigation also led to an audit and investigation of Wolf’s Daycare Center,
the center that provided daycare services for Lober’s children. Melissa Scott, Co-Director
of Wolf’s Daycare Center was ultimately charged with falsifying business records, plead
guilty and was sentenced to a conditional discharge. Scott subsequently made full restitution
of $10,586.00 to Ulster County DSS.

“I would like to recognize the Town of Ulster Police Department, the Social Services Investigations
Unit and all of the individuals who brought this to a successful conclusion. This arrest, once again,
sends the message that fraud and abuse will not be tolerated in Ulster County,“said County Executive Mike Hein.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009



An Ulster County woman who claimed to be totally disabled after falling out of a chair was arrested Friday for accepting $73,000 in workers’ compensation benefits while she worked at a youth sports camp.

The New York State Insurance Department reported that Kathy M. Martinez, 56, of Carney Road, Ulster Park, started collecting benefits after claiming that injuries she suffered from the fall left her unable to work. She suffered the injuries while employed as a Spanish teacher in the Kingston School District in 2005.

However, Insurance Department Frauds Bureau investigators found that Martinez was actually handling payroll and other business services for the youth camp while collecting compensation benefits. Martinez is accused of stating on three separate occasions that her injuries prevented her from working. The benefits she received were paid through Ulster County, whose self-insured workers’ compensation plan covers Kingston School District employees.

“We appreciate the investigative work of the New York State Insurance Department and law enforcement personnel in this matter. As I have said many times before, my administration is committed to rooting out fraud and abuse, whenever it occurs, and there is zero tolerance in Ulster County for this type of alleged criminal behavior. These times are challenging enough for taxpayers, businesses and those who are trying to provide for their families, without the deceit that this case apparently represents,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein.

State police arrested Martinez on charges of insurance fraud and workers’ compensation fraud. She could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison if she is convicted.

Judge James Gilpatric released Martinez in her own recognizance following her arraignment in city court, pending a hearing scheduled for Oct. 26. The case is being prosecuted by William Andrews, a special prosecutor for Ulster County District Attorney D. Holley Carnright.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Kingston, NY (October 5, 2009) - Ulster County brings tourism to life with a new brand, new marketing strategy and new interactive website
( When you have a county as diverse as Ulster County, where tourism generates as much as $471 million dollars
to the local economy and 8,000 jobs, branding is crucial.

“The new Ulster County Alive brand is meant to convey that no matter what a potential visitor’s interests are, Ulster County is vibrant and alive
with possibilities,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. “Nowhere else in the world can a visitor find the unique combination of history, culture,
world-class dining and spas and magnificent natural resources that Ulster County has to offer. We’re just 90 miles from midtown Manhattan.
It’s a story that needed to be told more effectively and I’m confident that our new campaign will drive home the message.”

From boating around lighthouses on the Hudson River, to hiking the Catskill mountains, to rock climbing the Shawangunk Mountains, to cross-country
skiing, to wineries, to apple-picking to strolling Main Street Ulster County has many assets. Capturing all of these assets in a single brand identity presents
a challenge- a challenge which Ulster County decided it needed to obtain professional assistance. Accordingly, in the fall of 2008, working with industry
representatives, the county selected a local firm, MarketingWorks. MarketingWorks and Ulster County Tourism solicited feedback from various industry
groups throughout the creation of the marketing strategy.

The result is the creation of a brand ULSTERCOUNTYALIVE.COM that captures the spirit of Ulster County as well as the way travel and tourism is
affected by changes in technology. Ulster County’s former marketing efforts were largely focused on print media. As anyone who travels substantially
today can tell you, travel now starts with the internet. Ulster County has revamped its tourism website so that it is a dynamic, ever- changing, attractive site:
one that visitors want to visit and one that will drive potential visitors directly to the tourism accommodations, recreational opportunities and other amenities
throughout the county. “Even if they are familiar with a place or accommodation, they are using the web to book their travel,” said Jackie Appeldorn, General
Manager of Mohonk Mountain House. “More importantly most new visitors are looking for destinations on the Internet. By fully embracing web-based
marketing in conjunction with a sophisticated and exciting ad campaign, Ulster County Tourism is positioning the county for tourism success.”

“Ulster County is taking a unique approach to marketing, one with which its individual lodging destinations have had success; that is marketing to New York
City.In conjunction with the rebranding of Ulster County Tourism, and the creation of a new web-based approach to marketing, Ulster County has launched
an advertising campaign on the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s shuttle train between Times Square and Grand Central Station, a route that draws 8 million
visitors a year,” said Ulster County Tourism Director Rick Remsnyder.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tough Times Call For Tough Decisions

KINGSTON, NY (October 1, 2009)… Today marked the beginning of the budget process as County Executive Michael P. Hein released his 2010 Tentative Budget. It is evident that Ulster County is being squeezed between the demands and the mandates of the State and Federal Government and that these tough times call for tough decisions.

Hein proved today that he in fact can make those tough choices.

The County Executive sent a clear message that Ulster County stands united with counties, towns and villages against the continuous cost shifts imposed upon them by state government. He underscored his point when he explained that “New York is the only state that pushes significant amount of Medicaid expense down to the counties” and in Ulster County’s case that will translate into $30.5 million dollars for 2010.

Hein’s budget proposed reducing the county workforce by 4.5% or 100 jobs and eliminating or severely reducing several county programs. His initial budget reflects a tax increase of less than $50.00 for the year.

I stand alongside the Executive to turn this quagmire into a pedestal of leadership and an opportunity to collaborate with both he and the Legislature to reallocate resources for a more effective and efficient Ulster County government.


Nevele Grande pays overdue taxes to Ulster County - The Daily Freeman News: Serving the Hudson Valley since 1871(

Nevele Grande pays overdue taxes to Ulster County - The Daily Freeman News: Serving the Hudson Valley since 1871(

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Just Say "NO" to Telemarketers (photo courtesy of

DO NOT CALL*DO NOT CALL*DO NOT CALL-Your cell phone number will be fair game for telemarketers. To get on the Do Not Call Registry and avoid annoying telemarketers-call 888-382-1222...make sure to call from the phone you wish to register (you can register your house phone and cell phone)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

On October 14, 2004 the Ulster County Legislature named the Kerhonkson Bridge after former judge, county legislator, fire company chaplain, veteran, Lion's club member and all around "nice guy" Herb Poppel. It took five years, $4,000,000.00 in stimulus money and hard work by a group of dedicated public officials including Legislators Mary Sheeley, TJ Briggs, Joe Stoeckler and Susan Cummings and County Executive Mike Hein to put a plan into action.

Ulster begins first stimulus project

By William J. Kemble

KERHONKSON – Local officials on Monday welcomed the start of work to replace the Herbert Poppel Bridge over the Rondout Creek, a $4.7 million project that is the first in Ulster County to be financed by federal economic stimulus money.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Do you remember Saturday Night Lives’ Linda Richman who would say “talk amongst yourselves”? That is what was going on for the past few days at the New York State Association of Counties Fall Seminar. County officials expressed outrage over being “nickled, dimed and dollared" as a result of cost shifting efforts by our State leaders. To put it simply, our leaders in Albany are trying to solve their budget gap at our expense. It seems that all of the State’s bad decisions are being forced on local government.
The call to action was to stop talking amongst ourselves and make the public aware of Albany’s inadequacies.
The Dutchess County Executive echoes many of the sentiments held by the Ulster and Orange County Executives. It’s time for our leaders in Albany to make the tough decisions and take their hands out of the pockets of local government and the local tax payer. It’s time to STOP SPENDING….STOP REDUNDANCIES…STOP COST SHIFTING.

Copyright © 2009 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.

Cost shifting concerns county officials
POUGHKEEPSIE – More than 500 county officials from across New York State including county executives, chairs of county legislative boards and county administrators gathered for the 2009 New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) Fall Seminar in Saratoga, New York. The dominant issue facing county leaders is how to deal with potential cost shifts from New York State as the state faces its perennial budget gaps and how to avoid having those state costs transferred to county property taxpayers.
“Our senators and assembly members need to make some of the tough decisions that county officials are making in order to close the budget gaps,” said Dutchess County Executive William Steinhaus. “For years, state officials have ‘fixed’ their budget problems by shifting costs to counties and county property taxpayers, and mandating counties to deliver state services. Our local property taxpayers can no longer afford ‘business as usual’.”
Dutchess County, along with counties across the state, is facing fiscal pressure from declining revenues, shrinking tax base, increased demand for county services, as well as lagging reimbursements from the State for state mandated services delivered at the county level. These fiscal pressures make it extremely challenging to manage the County’s current 2009 budget and prepare a 2010 budget.
New York State Budget Director Robert Megna addressed the joint breakfast meeting this morning to discuss the dire straights of the state budget, noting New York State’s operating budget is facing a $2 billion deficit by December. According to Megna, the state is facing “unprecedented” financial challenges. Megna told Steinhaus and other county leaders that state revenue declines are even worse than the declines seen eight years ago, immediately following 9/11. County officials asked for flexibility and relief from onerous state mandates if state funding is reduced for mandated programs.
Steinhaus commended Megna’s statement that Governor Paterson wants to avoid tax increases and close the state’s gap through spending cuts. “Governments at every level are facing extraordinary fiscal challenges but must recognize that property taxpayers’ wallets are empty. State spending cuts and mandate relief are the only answers,” concluded Steinhaus.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Ulster Legislature Enacts Whistleblower Protections

KINGSTON, NY (September 9, 2009)… A grateful Comptroller Auerbach handed out symbolic whistles to Ulster legislators at Wednesday’s meeting of the County Legislature. Legislators had just voted in favor of a policy that protects employees and agents of the County from retaliation for ‘blowing the whistle’ on fraud and abuse in County government.

“The Legislature’s action tonight empowers a great many people to challenge improper or unlawful conduct in County government,” said Comptroller Elliott Auerbach, “tonight ‘we blow the whistle’ in recognition of this important policy.”

“It was great to see Legislators rally around this important protection,” said Auerbach, “they made a Herculean effort across several committees and two caucuses to effect this policy.”

Auerbach first identified the need for County whistleblower protections in his March 25, 2009 “Internal Control Baseline Report” which assessed the effectiveness of internal controls within County departments. The report recommended whistleblower protection to protect individuals from retaliation if they report misconduct.

“We have seen a number of instances this year where if people felt assured they would not suffer retaliation for speaking up,” explained Auerbach, “problems may have been resolved or mitigated without the time, expense and disruptions caused by lawsuits. The Legislature’s leadership tonight contributes to improving internal control structure of Ulster County Government.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

County officials condemn cost-shifting

Copyright © 2009 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc

ALBANY - As state leaders and budget officials prepare to address a $2.1 billion hole in the State Budget, a bipartisan group of county officials, this morning, presented a long list of how the state’s fiscal woes are impacting their county governments. They also called on the State’s fiscal decision makers to cut state spending in their deficit reduction plan (DRP), rather than shift costs to county property taxpayers.

“New York State’s current and out-year imbalance between spending and revenues, combined with the looming disappearance of federal stimulus dollars, require immediate and structural spending controls,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario. “At the county level, we have seen three consecutive quarters of decline in our sales tax receipts, increased unemployment, and lagging reimbursement from the state, all of which are resulting in mid-year budget deficits in many counties—and leaders in those counties are making painful mid-year adjustments to close those gaps.”

Governor David Paterson has said he will call the State Legislature back into session in September to enact a mid-year deficit reduction plan that will help to close the projected State Budget gap. County leaders today said they want to make sure they aren’t called upon to close that gap at the State level because many of them are facing mid-year deficits themselves.

Republican Orange County Executive Edward Diana, said all Democrat Paterson has to do is look at what the counties are doing.

“We’ve reduced our work forces. We did furloughs. We laid people off. We’ve not hired any new people. We’ve consolidated our department. We lessend the amount of services that we provide, because we are a service business. Don’t ever forget what we do; we provide services, and 75 to 80 percent of it are state services that are provided by the county government.”

Some of the fiscal pressures currently facing counties include:

  • Lower than expected local sales tax receipts – for the third quarter in a row – a full 9% below last year’s receipts by the end of second quarter;
  • Lagging reimbursement from the state for state programs delivered at the county level;
  • Higher local unemployment and increased demand for county services;
  • Increased employee costs – in the form of pension contributions and health care costs.

“We support Governor Paterson’s efforts to cut spending at the state level. He understands the plight of our property taxpayers, who can’t afford to pay more, especially in these difficult economic times,” said Broome County Executive Barbara Fiala, a Democrat, and president of the New York State County Executives Association. “Each and every one of our counties is facing some difficult decisions. We are having to prioritize our programs, cut here and there and address mid-year budget challenges at the same time we are creating our 2010 budgets. We have no room for reductions or cost shifts from state government in Albany.”

Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, a Republican, said all of this is driving people from the state.

“So in addition to burdening us with mandated costs not covered by state revenues, they are also adding tax upon tax", Vanderhoef said. "Rockland County, the Hudson Valey, Chemung, Erie, it doesn’t matter where you go, people will leave, and if they further ask us to pick up the cost of these programs, people will definitely be moving to South Carolina.”

Monday, August 31, 2009

Copyright © 2009 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc

Ulster County sues Nevele for outstanding taxes, payments in lieu of taxes

KINGSTON – Ulster County his filed a lawsuit against the owners of the Nevele Hotel in an effort to collect all payments in lieu of taxes and unpaid taxes owed the county.

According to the complaint filed in State Supreme Court on Friday, the county is owed $290,959, plus penalties, interest and attorneys’ fees.

The Ulster County Industrial Development agency was also named in the suit by the county, but the IDA was included for procedural purposes and the county is not seeking any money or remedies from it.

In 2008, the hotel, which ended its tax exempt status, agreed to pay existing county, town and highway taxes in three installments.

The complaint said the Nevele paid the first payment, but not the second or third totaling $74,290.

The 2009 county, town, high and special district taxes totaling $161,388 are also unpaid, according to the suit as is $55,280 in county motel tax.

County Executive Michael Hein said he looks forward to working with the new owner, but the hotel has an obligation to the taxpayers of the county.

An auction company will be accepting bids for the hotel on Tuesday.

Affordable housing complex opens in Ulster County
Copyright © 2009 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.

ELLENVILLE – It was a vacant lot, but now could be a Field of Dreams for prospective homeowners.

Ellenville village, state and federal officials were on hand Monday for the opening of the Buttermilks Falls townhouse complex near the accent over Shawangunks, a 15-unit, $3.4 million project to help bring more homeownership to the village.

“These are 15 townhouse units for sale for homebuyers earning up to 100 percent for the median income, and we have four units for that,” said Kevin O’Connor, the executive director of the Rural Ulster Preservation Company, which helped develop the complex. ”And we have 11 units for folks earning up 80 percent of Ulster County’s median income.”

The median income in Ulster County is $70,000 for a family of four, and the units are priced at $127,000 and $144,000. O’Connor said there has been interest in more than half of the units so far.

“We have been working in the Village of Ellenville for a number of years,” said O’Connor.” This was a site that was vacant for as long as anyone could remember, and it was an opportunity to bring home ownership to the Village of Ellenville. They fit in with the community. We were able save the mature tree line along Canal Street.”

The project was reliant on state funding and housing subsidies, and Deborah Van Amerongen, the commissioner of New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, said this complex helps with the revitalization of communities like Ellenville, which have been suffered economically over the years.

“It’s great to provide home ownership opportunities anywhere in this state, particularly in areas where there has been economic downturn,” she said. “People really haven’t had the opportunity to have good decent housing, particularly brand new homes like this.”
Congressman Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, was a featured speaker prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony.

“It’s very nicely done, and it’s attractive. It’s going to make a big difference in the lives of the people who live in these townhouses,” he said, following a tour of a unit. “It’s another example of the positive things happening here in Ulster County.”

Ulster comptroller faults Social Services Department - The Daily Freeman News: Serving the Hudson Valley since 1871(

Ulster comptroller faults Social Services Department - The Daily Freeman News: Serving the Hudson Valley since 1871(

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Thursday, August 27, 2009



Poor Internal Controls May Have Contributed to Missing Money

KINGSTON, NY (August 27, 2009)… Comptroller Elliott Auerbach has released his audit of the Ulster County Department of Social Services’ Medicaid Spend-Down Program. The report identifies a lack of written policies and procedures on file for staff to follow, duties not sufficiently segregated to provide appropriate checks and balances, inadequate safeguards for cash collection, deposits not made timely, receipts not always issued and a failed receipting system.

“We found a significant lack of management oversight to insure that this Program, which is designed to handle tens of thousands of dollars in client monies, is run efficiently and effectively,” said Auerbach.

Early in his first term as County Comptroller, Elliott Auerbach learned of a February 2008 reported theft of $1,320.00 from twenty-one client accounts which prompted his audit of the Program.

“In the course of this audit my staff uncovered an additional $3,424.30 in cash receipts from another fifty-three client accounts not deposited,” explained the Comptroller. “DSS lacks both a system and a secure collection facility and is finally addressing those issues nearly eighteen months after reporting the theft.”

The audit also found that the Medicaid Spend-Down accounts entered into NYS’s Welfare Management System are not reconciled against Ulster County’s accounting system and the DSS Accounting Department’s subsidiary record of each client’s history.

“When accounts are not reconciled we cannot be sure all transactions have been properly recorded and this is not acceptable practice,” said Auerbach.

“It was also troubling to learn that the required recertification process instituted by the New York State Department of Health was not followed,” said Auerbach. The audit found that client identification and citizenship were not always being verified based on reports received from the Federal Social Security Administration.

A survey of Medicaid employees, included in the report, disclosed that case workers feel that case loads are excessive, resulting in a suffering morale. Employees also cited slow and cumbersome technology resources and ineffective allocation of duties as key concerns.

While acknowledging that the County’s financial management system is grossly inadequate and contributes to some of the challenges cited in the audit, the Comptroller stated his expectation “that departments have a responsibility to insure appropriate care, custody and control of client and County funds.”

The Medicaid Spend-Down Program is a pay-in plan unique to New York State that provides coverage for medical related expenses for Medicaid eligible individuals.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

(google image)
(Ulster County Release)
Kingston, NY (August 27, 2009) - Melissa Scott, Co-director of Wolf’s Daycare
Center was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly submitting bills totaling $10,566
to the Ulster County Department of Social Services. She was charged with a
misdemeanor for falsifying business records in the second degree and was arraigned
in the Town of Ulster Court before the Honorable Susan Kesick. The matter has been
adjourned to a later date.

The charges were filed after a six month investigation conducted by the Ulster County
Department of Social Services Special Investigations Unit, the Town of Ulster Police
Department and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services Childcare Unit.

The charges stemmed from bills that were submitted for services to children that were
allegedly not rendered.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We are getting close to adopting the long awaited WHISTLE BLOWER protection that will afford county employees safe passage when it comes to raising questionable practices.

Ulster whistleblower proposal nears full legislative vote

KINGSTON – The Human Development and Personnel Committee has given its nod to whistleblower legislation proposed for Ulster County government employees and there is one more committee that must approve it before it can be placed on the floor for a full legislative vote.

The Administrative Services Committee has already approved it and Human Development Committee Chairman Donald Gregorius Monday said he believes it has stood up to several tests.

“We have honed it down as fine as we can do. It’s been through the county attorney and the legislative attorney and we hope to have it in place for a vote in the September meeting,” he said.

The Laws and Rules Committee is the final step before the full vote.

The whistleblower law idea stems from a proposal by County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ulster County starts study of employee cell phone use (

KINGSTON – The Ulster County Legislature has begun its look into county employee use of cell phones following an audit by County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach found the county spent $200,000 on cell phone bills last year.

County Legislature Administrative Services Committee Chairwoman Jeanette Provenzano said her committee is exploring options to reduce spending.

“We are looking forward to whatever policy changes that we can make to tighten up the information so we know who is using the cell phones, making sure we know who has them by name and what the use is for,” she said.

The cost of the usage last year was 40 percent above 2007, Auerbach found. He said, in some cases, cell phone plans were the “Cadillac” plans.

Comptroller blocks bridge-painting contract |

Comptroller blocks bridge-painting contract |

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Comptroller Elliott Auerbach presenting a check for over $61,000.00 to Town of Wawarsing Supervisor Ed Jennings at Thursday evening's Town Board meeting. Looking on are Town Clerk Jane Eck and Councilmen Terry Houck, Tom Geelan and John Gavaris.

KINGSTON, NY (August 20, 2009)…Comptroller Elliott Auerbach personally delivers a check for $61,486.90 to Town of Wawarsing Officials on Thursday evening, August 20, 2009. The check represents monies owed to the Town from a 2007 PAYMENT IN LIEU OF TAXES (PILOT) from the Nevele Grande Hotel.

Auerbach uncovered the money during an examination of payments made to the County which revealed that $24,341.88 was owed to Wawarsing’s General Fund and $37,145.02 was owed to their Highway Fund.

The Comptroller continues to pursue over $600,000.00 owed by the Nevele to Ulster County, the Town of Wawarsing, the Village of Ellenville, the Ellenville Central School District and the Ellenville Library.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Comptroller Leads Collaboration to Secure Tax Dollars

KINGSTON, NY (August 12, 2009)… Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach has led the effort to protect taxpayers of the County, the Town of Wawarsing, the Ellenville School District, the Ellenville Public Library and the Village of Ellenville and to recoup funds owed by the owners of the recently closed NEVELE GRANDE RESORT.

“Ulster County residents are on the hook for nearly one-half million dollars for taxes and fees owed by the Nevele” said Auerbach. “This is a financial burden to the three municipalities and the two districts. Each entity is at risk and I felt it was best to launch a coordinated effort, with the help of Ulster County Attorney Bea Havranek and County Executive Michael Hein so that the county, the town, the village, the library and the school could take whatever legal steps are necessary to ensure collection.”

Comptroller Auerbach explained that Ulster County taxpayers, through the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency UCIDA (Industrial Development Agency), have already aided the resort’s owners by providing a “payment in lieu of taxes” or PILOT agreement to reduce their tax burden. “Our UCIDA has provided healthy incentives and tax-breaks to assist the NEVELE GRANDE to evolve into a premier tourist destination” said Auerbach, “It is unfortunate the Nevele must go to auction,” said the Comptroller, “but the people of Ulster County must be made whole.”

“I see this as a valuable opportunity to collect revenues at a time when government sorely needs it,” said Auerbach, “at the same time, we look forward to the possibilities new ownership can bring to restore vitality to this time-honored resort.”

The chart below outlines funds owed by the Nevele to Ulster County taxing jurisdictions:

Payment In Lieu Of Taxes Agreement
2009 2008
Ulster County $56,318363 $46,122.89
T Wawarsing General $28,816.43 $26,834.22
T Wawarsing
Highway $44,215.88 $38,478.87
Interest &Penalty $15,974.80 $19,315.57
TOTAL $145,325.77 $93,606.22*
*$37,145.32 paid on 05/30/2008

Other Jurisdictions
Ulster Co. Occupancy Tax $50,000.00**
Ellenville Central School Dist. $255,695.74***
Ellenville Public Library $9402.97***
Village of Ellenville Water $155,480.36****
***Provided by Ellenville School District
****Provided by Village of Ellenville

Monday, August 10, 2009


Comptroller Auerbach Examines PILOT Payments

KINGSTON, NY (August 10, 2009)… A routine audit into PAYMENTS IN LIEU OF TAXES (PILOT) by Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach uncovered $61,486.90 owed to the Town of Wawarsing from a 2007 PILOT agreement between the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) and the Nevele Grande Hotel.

The Comptroller conducted a three year review with the help of Finance Commissioner Paul Hewitt and Head Account Clerk Brenna Lamoureux. The examination revealed a total of $104,554.98 in sporadic installment payments were received by the County Treasurer’s Office during 2008 but sums owed to the Town of Wawarsing for General and Highway taxes were never advanced. Auerbach informed Wawarsing officials that Ulster County will be forwarding payments of $24,341.88 for the Wawarsing General Fund and $37,145.02 for the Highway Fund.

Comptroller Auerbach continues to research other PILOT agreements to insure that the County and its Towns and Villages are not shortchanged.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Ulster employees spent $200,000 on cell phones last year

KINGSTON – An audit of Ulster County employees’ use of cell phones and Blackberry devices showed they ran up $200,000 in phone bills in 2008. That’s up 40 percent over 2007 bills and County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach said the county needs to come up with a more efficient way of using mobile communications, but at a lower cost to the taxpayer.

He is not pointing the finger at the county workers, but at the types of cell phone plans purchased by the county in the past. In some cases, “Cadillac” plans were purchased for employees that used their phones minimally, thus driving the per-minute cost up to as much as $2, he said.

“We may want to take a less traditional approach to future use and review both a ‘pay as you go’ plan or consider reimbursing employees for the actual minutes used on their personal cell phone while conducting business on behalf of the county,” Auerbach said.

The report recommends specific actions to improve control over county-issued wireless telecommunication devices and also recommends the county hire a firm specializing in matching use to plans as well as assessing billing errors and negotiating the recovery of funds.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ulster County investigating division of Health Department

Freeman staff

KINGSTON — The discovery of $32,000 in uncashed checks in a safe at the Ulster County Department of Health — whose director was let go last week — is among the reasons a full-scale audit of the department’s Environmental Sanitation Division has been launched, County Executive Michael Hein said on Friday.

In addition to the checks, which were made out to the county and dated as early as 2000, the safe at the sanitation division’s Flatbush Avenue office in Kingston contained health permits for such business and restaurants and camps that were made out but never issued, Hein said, as well as about $300 in cash.

“A significant amount of material was in there,” Hein said.

The materials were discovered on June 11, just hours after Hein placed county Public Health Director Dean Palen on “ad-ministrative leave.” Hein said the safe was behind the desk of Palen’s wife, Deborah, who until recently worked as Palen’s administrative assistant.

Hein stopped short of calling the matter criminal but said county District Attorney Holley Carnright has been made “aware” of the situation.

“I will not tolerate anything that even gives the perception of potential financial irregularities,” Hein said. “We have not ruled out anything at this point. I am a big believer of shining the bright light on things like this and addressing them immediately.”

Neither Palen nor his wife could be reached for comment on Friday.

The county executive said there were 150 uncashed checks in the safe and that they ranged in value from $15 to $1,100. He said the audit of the Environmental Sanitation Division will be completed “as soon as possible” by county Comptroller Elliott Auerbach and the state Health Department.

Auerbach said the investigation will focus, among other things, on whether the public was put in any danger because of the division’s failure to issue permits to businesses that are required to have them.

“Has the public been put in harm’s way?” Auerbach said.

The comptroller said the probe also will focus on what can be done to have better controls in place in the future, and he pledged that “we are going to look at this is a very non-judgmental way.”

Auerbach said he expects to have a plan of action for the investigation in place by Monday.

Hein and Auerbach are Democrats who were elected last fall and took office in January, when the county’s new charter went into effect. Palen was appointed public health director in 1994 when Republicans controlled the county government.

County Legislature Minority Leader Glenn Noonan, a Republican from Gardiner, said if there were any irregularities in the Health Department, Hein — who served as the appointed county administrator before the job of county executive was created — should have known about them.

Noonan said the probe might have started “as a witch hunt, but now they are starting to hit some dirt.”

Regardless of whether the discovery of the uncashed checks and unissued permits played a role in Palen’s dismissal, his days as public health director were numbered because the new charter mandates the Health Department be led by a medical doctor. Palen is not an M.D.

Palen’s annual salary at the time of his removal was $102,847. The Legislature must set the salary for the health director who will succeed him, but the lawmaking body last week rejected a committee’s recommendation that the new leader be paid between $120,000 and $175,000 per year.

In the interim, the Health Department is being led by Nereida Veytia, a registered nurse who has been serving as the department’s director of patient services.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

State audit cites financial risks, computer security issues at UCCC


STONE RIDGE — Ulster County Community College is being urged to reduce financial risks and eliminate computer security problems found in a state comptroller’s audit for the 15-month period ending April 22, 2008.

The findings were released by Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach, who said college officials are being advised to better safeguard the school’s $26.69 million budget, which includes $6.28 million in county funding.

“Of the 15 findings (in the audit), nine of them spoke directly to financial activities, including bank reconciliation, payroll certification, tuition collection and claims processing,” Auerbach said. “The (state comptroller) made some bold recommendations, including policy and procedure adoption, auditing of all claims and procurement measures. In addition, the Comptroller’s Office made six recommendations directed at information technology and computer access.”

Among other things, the office of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli recommended UCCC review payroll account procedures after finding that three checks totaling $1,265 had not been reviewed by the dean’s office and 11 checks totaling $6,248 were not listed in any payroll register.

State officials also said effective internal control systems for purchase orders are needed after finding that “none of the 140 claims we reviewed, totaling $637,523, had evidence of being audited by the (college) board before they were paid.”

The audit also recommended better documentation of expenses after three claims totaling $7,063 were found to have no explanation and 19 claims were found to have “insufficient” explanations for expenditures totaling $12,691.

Among the claims were “three meal events” totaling $2,598, without including the business purpose or a list of attendees for two of the events, while travel logs for 13 claims totaling $3,384 did not include “sufficient itemization, such as departure and destination details,” the audit stated.

Protecting information technology was recommended after auditors found that access rights had not been deleted for employees whose authorization level had changed or been discontinued.

“Of 10 former employee accounts that we tested, four remained active on the network, seven for up to four months after the users left college service, and one such user account logged onto the network 53 days after separation from service,” the auditors wrote. “Additionally, the access rights to the financial software application for one of these user accounts remained open for eight months after the employee’s separation from service, and the financial software was accessed through this account two months after separation.”

UCCC President Donald Katt said on Saturday that college officials have begun updating procedures to meet the state’s recommendations.

“We are very pleased that no waste, fraud, abuse of taxpayer dollars or financial malfeasance took place, and that no breaches of security, either paper or electronic, were identified,” Katt said of the audit.

“Since brought to the college’s attention, the college’s administration and board of trustees have already taken significant steps to put a number of the recommendations in place,” Katt added. “We will be filing with the Comptroller’s Office a complete comprehensive action plan and implement all the recommendation that the comptroller included in the report.”

In a prepared statement on Saturday, DiNapoli spoke highly of the college.

“Ulster County Community College plays a vital role in providing New Yorkers with an affordable, accessible education,” the comptroller said. “UCCC officials are taking the steps needed top continue to fulfill that role. They are implementing our recommendations to be sure they are making the best use of tuition and tax dollars needed to keep the college the top-notch institution that it is.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ulster comptroller starts certifying county payroll

KINGSTON – Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach has begun to certify the county’s more than $3 million payroll.

For the first time, county taxpayers have an independent review of payroll before it is paid, something he started last week, the comptroller said.

Auerbach said his office has the responsibility to certify the payroll for county employees.

“This is just an extra measure to insure that taxpayers’ money is being well spent and we are charged by the charter and the administrative code to in fact certify payroll, which has not been in place up until the new charter form of government in January,” he said.

Sometime in the future, Auerbach would like to expand his certification process to require county workers to personally appear and sign for their paychecks once or twice a year.,html

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ulster County tax lien sales double

Posted: April 20, 2009 - 8:29 AM

KINGSTON -- In 2007 there were 66 properties listed for sale at Ulster County's public auction. Twenty-four months later those numbers have more than doubled to 134, according to county Comptroller Elliott Auerbach.

The 2008 Public Auction catalog also reveals that the amounts owed to thecounty for properties three or more years in arrears have gone up by 55 percent since the 2007 sale, from $1,016,265 to $1,580,289.

Auerbach calls it a sign of the tough economic times and is fearful that it is a harbinger of things to come if we cannot offer property owners some relief.

Auerbach says that the 134 properties listed for sale is a small percentage compared to the 84,390 properties listed as taxable parcels in the 2008 Ulster County Real Property report, but he warns County leaders not to be lulled into thinking things are just fine since property tax accounts for 21 percent of the county's projected revenue.

The county's public auction will be held at SUNY Ulster in Vanderlyn Hall Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.
The complete listing of properties can be found on the County website at

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ulster Comptroller wants whistleblower policy

KINGSTON – Ulster County Comptroller Elliot Auerbach Wednesday recommended that the county legislature adopt a whistleblower law to promote “a systematic approach to communicating suspected improprieties while protecting the complainant from retaliation.

Auerbach’s recommendation is part of his Internal Controls Baseline Report, which is based on a survey of departments with the goal of establishing a baseline of internal control measures against which future progress can be gauged.

Auerbach said he has already received comments from county employees that may warrant a look-see.

“Informally we’ve had several folks come to us and we feel that it does warrant a firm whistleblower policy for the legislature to adopt.”

Among the other recommendations of Auerbach’s baseline report are individuals in leadership positions should focus on creating a culture of internal control; that the county executive develop a continuing education program for staff designed to disseminate information essential to understanding internal control and engage participants in continuous improvement of international control implementation; and to provide an orientation on the scope and implementation of the internal controls with the state comptroller.