Wednesday, December 14, 2011



Forum assesses new Ulster County Charter

Copyright © 2011 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.

NEW PALTZ – Numerous public officials attended a conference featuring members of the Ulster County Charter Review Commission, held Tuesday at SUNY New Paltz. The event was hosted by the Center for Research, Regional Education, and Outreach (CRREO).

Ulster County adopted its charter changes three years ago and is gearing up for its mandated five year review. Tuesday’s forum served as a sounding board for review commission members to consider while making their eventual recommendations to the legislature.

Conference mediator Dr. Gerald Benjamin, distinguished professor of political science and director of CRREO at SUNY New Paltz, said the new charter was designed to insure separation of powers, redistricting and goals as opposed to actual experience.

For the most part, it has been working, but he would recommend some modifications in the applications.

“Part of it is educating the people on their roles and responsibilities,” he said. “I think the comptroller’s office needs to be bolstered with more resources. I think there are changes in detail that are needed in the redistricting process, although that was an enormous success.”

“The charter for the most part eliminated the historic practice of department heads being feudal lords, based on their diplomatic skills,” said Marianne Collins, former Charter Commission member. “The charter, for better or for worse, installed leadership and accountability as the criteria by which the citizens of Ulster County evaluate their chief elected.”

The revised charter “seemed to be a near perfect document, implemented by imperfect people,” said County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach. And, politics really seeped into the implementation of it.” Auerbach said that after charter adoption, his office has both praised and criticized his county government as part of its mission. “We sort of have become a political science experiment.”

Dave Donaldson, minority leader elect and former commission chair, said that before the new charter, “transparency was definitely not part of the program.” However, he said they don’t see “a great deal of transparency in the new form, the way it’s working now. He cited the recent Golden Hill senior care privatization plan. “There was nothing transparent about that; it was handed down during the budget period, with a short period of time to make very important decisions that are going to affect the county for decades to come.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Shame on them if they have no legitimate excuse,"

"Eighty percent of success is showing up."
-- Woody Allen

Some Ulster lame-duck legislators skip out |

By Michael Novinson
Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM - 12/13/11

KINGSTON — County Executive Mike Hein's Oct. 25 address on the financial need to privatize Golden Hill was heard by 19 legislators and 14 empty chairs. Eight of those empty chairs belong to departing legislators.

The Legislature paid the Center for Governmental Research some $60,000 to analyze Hein's 2012 budget. Just 23 of the 33 legislators showed up Nov. 9 to hear CGR's findings. Six of the no-shows are leaving Dec. 31.

The Legislature's most important public hearing in nearly a decade took place Nov. 29. Eight legislators failed to show; six of those eight are not returning for another term.

Why so many empty chairs? The shrinking of Ulster's Legislature by 10 members and the switch to single-member districts Jan. 1 turned 15 of the current 33 legislators into lame ducks. And once futures were sealed, attendance changed for many.

The Times Herald-Record found 12 of the 15 departing legislators showed up less after learning they wouldn't serve another term. Attendance for seven of the 15 fell at least 24 percent.

"Shame on them if they have no legitimate excuse," said Russ Haven, legislative counsel for the New York Public Interest Research Group. Legislators draw an annual salary of $10,000.

Walter Frey, R-Saugerties, attended 41 of his 53 legislative meetings between Jan. 1 and Sept. 12. On Sept. 13, Frey lost the Republican primary to incumbent Bob Aiello 43-106. Since then, Frey made just seven of his 21 meetings. The drop-off: 44 percent. Frey was an early advocate for privatizing Golden Hill and was criticized by colleagues and public speakers. He didn't attend a single meeting of the full Legislature between July 19 and Dec. 5, when he cast the critical 17th vote for privatization. "I let them have their dog-and-pony show," he said. "My day would come."

Jack Hayes, R-Gardiner, attended 44 of his 50 legislative meetings between Jan. 1 and Nov. 7. Hayes lost the Nov. 8 general election to Tracey Bartels 905-1,035. Since then, Hayes has made just three of six meetings and was the only legislator to miss the Dec. 5 Golden Hill vote.

A personal issue has taken Hayes out of state the past two weeks, he said. He extended his trip for a week after being assured there were enough votes to privatize the infirmary.

Joe Stoeckeler, D-Cragsmoor, made 11 of his 17 legislative meetings between Jan. 1 and May 31. Since failing to get an endorsement at the June 1 Democratic convention, Stoeckeler attended just seven of his 24 meetings. Work and family health responsibilities prevented him from traveling an hour to Kingston for meetings. "I haven't put as much time in as I meant to," he said.

Not all departing legislators have cut back. Roy Hochberg, D-Hurley, attended every 2010 meeting and all of his 19 meetings between Jan. 1 and May 31. Even though Democrats endorsed incumbent Don Gregorius at their June 1 convention, Hochberg attended all of his 26 meetings since then. "You just put it on your calendar and make it your business to be there," he said.

Friday, December 9, 2011


HUGH REYNOLDS ATTEMPTS TO SUM UP AN EMOTIONALLY CHARGED WEEK IN ULSTER COUNTY...we have heard it all...deficit shots...unsustainable....the only alternative...a budget balancing effort...sacrificing the few for the many....... Not quite sure if there were any winners or losers but the one thing that Reynolds frames well is the future uncertainty

County Beat / Opinion
Hugh Reynolds: Golden opportunities
by Hugh Reynolds on Dec 9, 2011 • from the KINGSTON TIMES

Some thought County Executive Mike Hein might have as many as 19 votes for his Golden Hill/budget package, but 17, which he got Monday night, was just enough. We now move forward into an uncertain future with the county executive more powerful than ever.

The smoke has barely cleared, but it’s not too early to pick winners and losers on this one.

Mike Hein — obviously a winner, but bruised. Hein, who does not suffer criticism well, was pilloried for excessive secrecy, duplicity and connivance, even as he spoke to the “transparency” of the process. Pshaw. The new 23-member legislature, which the executive is undoubtedly already courting, had better keep a wary eye.

Dave Donaldson — clearly a loser and humiliated to boot. Donaldson fought the good fight for Golden Hill, but was crippled by some fancy footwork of his own doing. In attempting to reduce the executive’s staff — some said motivated by payback — Donaldson couldn’t even raise one vote in the Ways and Means Committee. Committee Chairman Rich Gerentine reminded Donaldson that as legislature chairman he advocated for the two additional executive deputies he lately sought to cut. Even Donaldson had to smile at that one. That their minority leader-elect was so roundly repudiated does not bode well for the Democrats next year.

Workers at Golden Hill and patients — tragic losers, and I do not use that word lightly. They face an uncertain future under private ownership. Word around legislative chambers is that upwards of 100 of the facility’s 400 workers could be “retirement eligible.” Few will be able to get by on the half-pay pensions the county will offer. Elderly patients can only wonder about their fate, and stress at that stage of life is especially debilitating.

County unions — Losers for the most part. CSEA could see its membership gutted when Golden Hill goes private. On the other hand, construction unions, which backed Hein with money and manpower during the last election, could see tens of millions in new buildings going up at Golden Hill.

Elliott Auerbach
— the comptroller looks like a winner, despite losing a last-ditch attempt to thwart the inevitable. It took Auerbach a while to get geared up, but he made a convincing argument that legislators really had no firm idea what a limited development corporation really meant. Unfortunately for the “kick the can down the road” crowd, by the time he mounted his counter-attack the votes were in. People will remember that the watchdog growled, however belatedly. If not, he’ll remind them.

Ken Ronk and Terry Bernardo — winners. Both two-termers have bright futures in the legislature, if not beyond. She’ll be chairwoman, he majority leader. Siding with the Democratic executive will score big props, at least with the Democratic executive.

Fred Wadnola — the affable chairman never could hold his 18-member majority together; half voted with Hein. Wadnola, an old-school politician, was taken to the woodshed by the executive on this one.

Taxpayers First — A catchy slogan, but one that should leave taxpayers in doubt about the future, two, three years down the road. The county is now in the business of selling assets and laying off people to balance its budgets. It can only get worse.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Resolution To Transfer Ownership Of Golden Hill

Here is what the Ulster County Legislature will be considering on Monday, December 5, 2011. Do they have all the information and are they ready? Resolution 266 GHHHCC to LDC">

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Making It Transparent: Certificate Of Incorporation Golden Hill LDC

A transparent look at the papers of incorporation for the GOLDEN HILL LOCAL DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION...Certificate of Incorporation GHLDC">

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


GOLDEN HILL...If you choose an is what I recommend!

November 28, 2011

Frederick J. Wadnola, Chairman
Paul J. Hansut, Majority Leader
Jeanette M. Provenzano, Minority Leader
Ulster County Legislature
244 Fair Street
Kingston, NY 12402

Dear Legislators:

I write to join you in resolving the financial difficulties we face with regard to our Golden Hill Health Care Center and the 2012 budget.

The fact of the matter is that you are being asked to restructure the ownership of our Health Care Center through a process that has raised substantive concerns by the NYS Comptroller. Further, you have been presented with a Tentative Budget that has been balanced with a non-recurring source of funds (a one-shot) to be raised through bonding. And, you must act quickly.

You hold a position of substantive authority on how to proceed. Since, it appears, the Local Development Corporation (LDC) is the only viable solution that you have before you to address the financial needs of our Health Care Center, I recommend you clearly and decisively take ownership of the process and make this LDC a model.

Proposed Action Plan:

A. Immediately hire Counsel with expertise in finance and LDCs.
B. Establish a vigorous governance structure to assure the integrity and independence of the LDC board of directors. As recommended by the NYS Authorities Budget Office (ABO), LDC board members should be free of direct governmental control and political influence.
C. An LDC must use the acquired property for purposes set forth in its certificate of incorporation. The certificate of incorporation requires a “Purpose” statement. Be certain you are comfortable with the answers to the required questions on the existing certificate of incorporation:
a. Why is the corporation being formed or what does the corporation intend to accomplish?
b. Who will benefit from the corporation’s accomplishments?
c. How will the corporation achieve its purpose?
D. Include in the LDC By-laws:
a. A requirement that the LDC report regularly to the Legislature to ensure the Legislature has a continued voice and role in the process. Expect written reports and attendance by an LDC board member at appropriate committee meetings.
b. The Authorities Budget Office (ABO) shall be notified of the LDC’s incorporation and the LDC’s commitment to comply with ABO reporting and accountability measures.
c. The Ulster County Comptroller shall have direct authority to audit any and all books and records of the LDC and for this purpose have access to all such books, records, and accounts at any time.
i. The LDC shall file with the County Comptroller a professional independent audit of the LDC’s annual financial statements.
ii. The County Comptroller shall audit and certify for payment all lawful claims or charges, whether for payroll or otherwise, or against funds for which the LDC is responsible in whole or in part.
iii. All such audits shall be an expense of the LDC.
d. The requirement to comply with all state, federal and/or local laws and/or regulations relating to:
i. Procurement and specifically to adopt and follow the County’s procurement policies.
ii. Competitive bidding.
iii. Freedom of Information Laws providing access to LDC records.
iv. NYS Public Officers’ Law requiring the meetings and activities of the LDC be open and accessible to the public. The by-laws should specifically state that confidentiality agreements as a pre-condition of any negotiation are not permitted. The ABO does not agree that full disclosure and transparency are incompatible with LDC success.
v. Competitive bidding.
e. The requirement to comply with Ulster County’s Ethics and Disclosure Law.
E. Amend the County Ethics and Disclosure Law to include the LDC.

F. Embrace the NYS Comptroller’s reform proposal to require that any contract between the County and an LDC must be for fair and adequate consideration and may be for a term no longer than five years, subject to periodic renewals for terms of up to five years each upon the consent of both parties.
G. Assure taxpayers they will receive full value for their asset and it will not be sold without an appraisal:
a. Employ a professional to study the value of the property; use your authority to require the production of books, papers, and other evidence deemed necessary and material to such study.
H. Require a detailed implementation plan inclusive of expected dates for each required step in the restructure/sale process (such as dates for when the: LDC board of directors will adopt by-laws; Legislature will transfer fee title to LDC; reserved leasehold agreement will be drafted, approved; etc.) and designate responsibility for each step.
I. Require scenario planning. The Legislature needs to review a series of multi-year financial scenarios depicting the impact of successes and failures, the effect of this one-shot revenue, and a second one-shot if needed in 2013.
J. Require a back-up plan in the event the LDC method of privatizing does not succeed.
K. Know your options now, don’t wait for future surprises.
Please do not hesitate to call on me if I can be of further assistance.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Implementation v. Application.....

Freeman staff

KINGSTON – Five years ago Ulster County voters fundamentally changed county government, when they voted to move to a charter form of government.

Most significantly, the charter put at the head of county government a county-wide elected executive empowered with broad unilateral powers. Ulster County’s first county executive, Michael Hein, took office on Jan. 1, 2009. He was elected to a new four-year term in November.

Three years after government began operating under the charter’s auspices, a special commission is revisiting the plan.

Since September, the Ulster County Charter Revision Committee has been meeting to review the document which lays out how the new county government works.

ON DEC. 13, the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach at SUNY New Paltz and the League of Women Voters of the Mid-Hudson Region, will host a conference to examine how the charter has worked and how results compare with the original expectations, as well as its strengths, weaknesses and future best practices.

THE MEETING is designed to provide information to the commission now considering whether to recommend changes to the county charter.

“We’re calling upon people who helped write the charter, who advocated for it and have experience operating under it to tell us whether their expectations were met, whether it’s operating the way they had thought, what it’s strengths and weaknesses are,” said Gerald Benjamin, the center’s director. A SUNY New Paltz professor, Benjamin was chairman of the commission that created the county charter.

Benjamin said the Revision Commission has been invited to the conference and he hopes that members “will be informed” by the conversations.

THE COUNTY charter requires that a Revision Commission review the charter five years after its creation and every 10 years thereafter.

THE 11-MEMBER Revision Commission meets on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. in the Legislature’s conference room of the County Office Building, 244 Fair St.

Over the course of the past several meetings, commission members have met with department heads, administration members and other countywide elected officials to understand the impact the charter has had on their departments.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Local leaders consider ramifications of state tax cap
(Copyright © 2011 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc)

NEW PALTZ – As governments, municipal, state, county and school districts, look ahead to 2012, they facing a cap on property tax levies, and that presents problem on how governments functions.

“We’re faced with a huge problem, and we’re at the intersection of it right now,” said Elliot Auerbach, Ulster County comptroller.

Auerbach attended the Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress’ Fall Conference on Local Governments Monday at SUNY New Paltz, and he said local governments will have to look at efficiencies first as it tries to look at the continued limiting of revenues.

“It has forced government to look inside, to become more efficient and how best they spend their limited dollars,” said Auerbach.

Tom Suozzi, the former Nassau County executive who chaired the state’s Property Tax Relief commission in 2008, which helped in developing the current tax cap proposal, talked about state mandates that pass certain financial responsibilities for programs, like Medicare, down to the county level.

“And that’s been left off the table,” said Auerbach. “That’s really the crux of the problem here.”

State mandates have always been grappling points for local lawmakers. But as they try to overcome that obstacle, services will still need to be provided, and Auerbach said consolidations and shared services may be solutions in making to help government work in the near future.
“I think that’s going to become the buzz word(s) for 2012,” he said.

Jonathan Drapkin, president of the Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, said we are living during an historic time when tough choices have to be made for the immediate and long-term futures.

“It’s going to be one of those periods 10 or 15 years from now and we’ll say, ‘That was one tough period’,” he said. “I think we have to come to grip that very difficult decisions have to be made.”

And with those austere measures ahead, governments will need to find a way to fund services as property taxpayers demand an end to yearly hikes.

“It creates the window where you can plan,” he said. “The public has made it very cleared to us that they won’t accept endless increases in taxes.”

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Ulster comptroller proclaims county charter a success
KINGSTON – As Ulster County reaches the first 1,000 days of the county’s new charter form of government, County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach said it is fulfilling the process of a new government designed to be economical, efficient and effective. Auerbach said the charter is doing everything it is supposed to be doing.

“We have seen a realignment in government. We have seen a high level of accountability. We’ve seen transparency and efficiency in government and most importantly, we have seen leadership,” he said.

Copyright © 2011 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


If you are unable to provide an attorney and you cannot afford one, then one will be provided for you…BUT AT WHAT COST?


KINGSTON, NY (September 5, 2011)… Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach has released a report on Ulster County’s Assigned Counsel Program and recommends immediate action to control the costs to the County for providing legal representation to individuals who need and cannot afford an attorney. The report illustrates how with tighter administrative controls the County could realize substantial annual savings and it lauds the County Public Defender for obtaining a grant to improve services.

Ulster County’s Assigned Counsel Program and its Office of the Public Defender provide attorneys to represent eligible defendants in court. The Office of the Public Defender represents the majority of these cases, but when a conflict of interest arises defendants are provided counsel through the Assigned Counsel Program.

“It is remarkable the number of cases handled by Ulster County’s Public Defender,” said Auerbach, “and at a cost per defendant far less than its sister program, the Assigned Counsel Program.” The Assigned Counsel Program pays hourly fees, reimbursements, and other costs to attorneys who are assigned to cases by judges and justices.

“There has been an expensive misunderstanding in County government,” said Auerbach, “that the County has no control over assigned counsel and its related costs.” In fact, the report demonstrates, counties have not only the right but the obligation to adopt an Assigned Counsel Plan. “The response to questions regarding this cost center reminded me of the answers we received regarding Net Service Fees,” said Auerbach, “with the shoulder shrug and ‘there’s nothing we can do’ comments.”

“I recognize that there was an effort in 2008 to create an Office of the Conflict Defender to better manage costs and improve legal services,” said Auerbach, “but the delay encountered in advancing that effort does not relieve the county of its on-going responsibility to manage the costs.” Auerbach’s report recommends the County develop an Administrative Plan for Assigned Counsel (APAC) and implement it immediately while continuing to pursue an effective comprehensive Assigned Counsel Plan addressing professional development and management as well as costs.

Auerbach said it is important for taxpayers to understand that these legal services are not restricted to people considered “indigent” or devoid of resources. The legal standard is provision of services to defendants “who cannot afford to retain counsel”. Further, Auerbach said, the requirements may no longer be limited to criminal defendants and could possibly extend to civil cases as well. “The value of assigned counsel to our justice system cannot be underestimated,” said Auerbach, “likewise we must not underestimate how quickly these costs are growing.”

The report is posted on the Comptroller’s website at and click “Reports/Audits” then “Reports & Reviews”.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

TAX CAP...More Q Than A

On Thursday August 25, 2011 I was a member of a panel representing the NYS Government Finance Officers Association (NYSGFOA) in an attempt to clarify the impact of the 2% Tax Cap. I joined with leaders from Associations representing Counties, Towns, Villages, Cities, School Boards and Fire Districts to discuss its implementation and understand the details.

Here are highlights and a follow up memo from NYSGFOA:

The Office of the State Comptroller shared some preliminary guidance for local governments with regard to implementing the real property tax levy cap. Although not all questions and issues have been resolved, the NYS Division of the Budget will be providing more formal guidance soon.

The following is a listing of what was learned:

Official Guidance: Official guidance will be issued by the NYS Division of the Budget. This guidance (expected to be 14-16 pages) is expected shortly (perhaps as soon as today).

Consumer Price Index: The CPI Index to be utilized in calculating the real property tax levy cap for local governments (outside of school districts) will be the National CPI-U Unadjusted (Consumer Price Index All Urban Consumers--Unadjusted). CPI-U for calendar year local governments has been calculated at 2.01%, therefore the tax levy cap is 2% for the coming fiscal year. The CPI index to be utilized for school districts (and local governments with non-calendar fiscal years) has not yet been determined.

Special Districts: The budgets of special districts with their own governing boards will be subject to their own real property tax levy cap. However, special districts which have as their governing board the governing board of the municipality will NOT be subject to their own cap. The budgets of those special districts will rollup to the municipality's budget. Special districts which are supported by fees and not ad valorum levies or special assessments are exempt from the cap.

Tax Certioraris: Tax certioraris and breach of contract issues are NOT excludable from the tax levy cap.

PILOTS: Properties coming off PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) agreements will NOT be considered part of the Quantity Growth Factor number in calculating the real property tax levy. Only real brick and mortar changes impacting a local govenrment's taxable assessed value will be included. Therefore, a reassessment would provide no benefit with regard to the real property tax levy cap.

Retirement Contribution Exemptions: The property tax levy cap legislation exempts the portion of pension rate increase that exceeds 2 percent of the "system average actuarial contribution rate" over the prior year.

For Fiscal Year 2012-13, the average contribution rate for the Employee Retirement System (ERS) will increase from 16.3 percent of salaries to 18.9 percent, a change of 2.6 percentage points. The average contribution rate for the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) will increase from 21.6 percent to 25.8 percent, a change of 4.2 percentage points. Only .6% of salaries under ERS (on average) and 2.2% of salaries for PFRS (on average) will be exempt from the real property tax levy cap calculation. THE EXEMPTION IS NOT BASED ON THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT'S PENSION CONTRIBUTION BILL.

OSC is working on providing the projected salary bases and the amount of the pension exclusion in early September. The pension exclusions will not apply to those employers which are already amortizing their pension payments.

Overrides: OSC does not anticipate providing a template for local governments to utilize when developing a local law authorizing them to override the levy cap. It can be presumed that any local law adopted to permit an override of the real property tax levy cap (even if done so just before--even the same day as-- the budget vote) will be accepted by the NYS Department of State. Required public hearings must still be held and 60% of the voting power of the entire governing board must approve the override (school budgets require a 60% vote of those voting on the budget to approve any override). Overrides are only applicable to the upcoming budget.

Default Budgets: If a budget is not approved by the governing board, the preliminary budget becomes the official budget (not applicable to school districts as they have contingency budget provisions set in law). However, the increase in the real property tax levy can NOT exceed the levy cap (unless an override is approved as noted above).

Reporting Form: The real property tax levy cap Reporting Form, provided by OSC, to assist local governments in determining their real property tax levy should be available next week. OSC will provide local governments their link and PIN to access the form. The form will be in a similar reporting environment to the AUD. The NYS Department of Taxation and Finance is still working on calculating the quantity growth factor numbers.

NOTE: Tax levy reporting will be due to OSC prior to budget adoption by local governments and by March 1st for school districts. School districts will also need to send the budget to the NYS Department of Education and the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance. OSC will neither certify the tax levy figure nor correct inaccurate data.

NOTE: If an incorrect tax levy for 2012 is not discovered in an OSC audit (until for example 2015), the amount of funds required to place in reserve will be based on the prior 3 years of inaccurate levies. This assumes that a tax levy override was not enacted.

Relevies: The relevy of unpaid property taxes and other assessments and whether or not they apply toward the real property tax levy cap is still being reviewed.

• OSC will be creating guidance on how reserves will be held.
• OSC will be providing assistance to local governments that consolidate to establish a new real property tax levy cap.
• OSC will be creating a tax levy cap page on their web site in the near future with much more information, illustrations, and links to resources.
As soon as official guidance is released from the NYS Division of Budget we will share it with you

Friday, May 20, 2011

First quarter report shows Ulster economy is slowly rebounding

KINGSTON – The 2011 first quarter financial report for Ulster County government could signal a turnaround in the economy.

County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach released the report Thursday noting that the property tax collection rate is at 97 percent, a figure he called “really healthy,” and the sales tax is up 5.1 percent above the same period last year.

County spending is down from the same quarter in 2010, another good sign, he said.

“Equally as important is that the actual total salary and fringe benefit expenditures decreased $1 million from 2010 to 2011, and this was a decrease that was preceded by four years of constant salary increases and expenses,” he said. “So, the decrease symbolizes the fact that the exec and his office have taken seriously the necessity to do cutbacks.”

Auerbach has been pushing the county to use performance-based budgeting.

(Copyright © 2011 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Letter to the TH-RECORD Editor 04.02.11

Facts, please, not hearsay

As Ulster County's first elected county comptroller, I am willing to take a few "jeers" that may sometimes go with the job of protecting the public's interests. I prefer, however, to be jeered on the basis of facts rather than hearsay.

The Charter requires the comptroller to audit and certify for payment all lawful claims or charges against the county.

As an independent agency of the people, I am the last line of defense that must be crossed before funds are released. While I am not the CFO and do not have the power to "freeze accounts," I do have the authority to demand that best practices are in place to ensure that taxpayer dollars are safeguarded.

My staff and I have spent several weeks requesting information from the sheriff and the district attorney's office regarding confidential funds to ensure that there were protocols and written procedures in place. To date, the county exposure for this money has topped $200,000.

I welcome the opportunity to meet with your editorial board to clarify the scope of my authority and in particular my approach in fulfilling my obligations.

After all, "The information is only as good as the source it comes from."

Elliott Auerbach

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ulster comptroller freezes funds for confidential probes

Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2011

By Freeman staff

KINGSTON — Citing both ongoing criminal investigations and deficiencies in protocols, the Ulster County comptroller has frozen funds used by the county sheriff and district attorney for confidential investigations.

Comptroller Elliott Auerbach announced the freeze today and said it would continue until he received written protocols from each office for use of the funds.

He said the freeze follows his investigation of the internal controls over more than $200,000 in such funding.

Auerbach also cited “a series of simultaneous investigations … in progress regarding the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Team (URGENT) and the use of confidential funds and forfeiture monies related to their work. These investigations appear to be broad and deep and, as such, are likely to continue for sometime.”

Auerbach said although he determined that internal controls over the funds were inadequate, he will not report his finding to the public “until such time as it is clear our work will not complicate or compromise any of the criminal investigations in progress.”

The FBI, according to officials, has subpoenaed records regarding the multiagency task force, known as URGENT, which is administered by the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office.

The investigation came in the wake of the task force’s former leader being charged with grand larceny and accused of double dipping from the city and Kingston school district payrolls.

Timothy Matthews, who headed URGENT from 2007 to 2009, was suspended from the Kingston Police Department in January after being accused of stealing $9,000 from the city, and the suspension was extended after the double-dipping allegation was lodged. Matthews, a detective lieutenant, headed Kingston’s Detective Division for about a decade.

The action taken by the comptroller deepens the funding squeeze on Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team. Kingston Mayor James Sottile has said URGENT, which has received $45,000 in annual federal Entitlement Program money from Kingston since 2008, will receive no funding during the ongoing investigation.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ulster County whistleblowers can now email concerns

KINGSTON – Anyone with a concern about operations of Ulster County government may express it now via a confidential e-mail link on the county comptroller’s homepage at . Just click on the e-mail link at

“As an independent watchdog for the taxpayers, I want to investigate misuse of county funds or resources whether minor or major,” said County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach. He said he would investigate each report and take appropriate action as indicated. “Even if a report does not rise to the level of requiring immediate action, they will help guide our annual audit planning by bringing to our attention possible deficit areas.”

The new web page also includes detailed information on county and state laws, access to reports, audits and financial data and a link to the state comptroller’s office and Ulster County Charter.

(Copyright © 2010 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


KINGSTON – An audit of 39 Ulster County departments, agencies and offices shows they spend over $106,000 annually on memberships to organizations and associations and of that, over $99,000 of those are not mandated and are the choice of each department.

The study, by County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach’s office, found there were 107 memberships of which five were mandated as a result of laws, regulations or grant and program terms.

Auerbach said in these continued tough economic times, while many of those memberships may be worthwhile, they need to be reassessed.

“I equate it to the leaky bucket of water. It’s these small pinholes on the bottom, when all of a sudden you look up and a $100,000 out of the $350 million of county money is vaporizing,” he said. “We need to be cautious and careful as we move forward. We need to scrutinize every dime and every dollar being spent.”

The largest mandated expense was the Department of Social Services for $4,112 to the New York Public Welfare Association. The largest non-mandated expense was for $19,611 from the Golden Hill Residential Health Care Facility to the New York Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

Ulster Tourism belonged to the most organizations and associations – 11, with the county legislature spending the most at over $30,000 for six memberships.

(Copyright © 2010 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc)

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Second comptroller’s look at UCRRA finds expenses outpacing revenues
(Copyright © 2010 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc)

KINGSTON – A second audit of the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency by the Ulster county comptroller’s office found no documentation for long term operational and financial planning. “As we looked at the financial landscape of the agency it became clear that it has been functioning on a day-to-day basis these past many years,” said County Comptroller Elliot Auerbach.

His report found that expenses are outpacing revenues by almost 3.5 percent a year and at that rate, expenses will exceed income.

The audit also found that 21 of the agency’s 37 revenue contracts will expire in 2012 and without intervention by 2014, the agency’s sole revenue contract will be with Ulster County. It also found that capital assets have been decreasing since 2006; that as of 2009, UCRRA has a total debt of $38.9 million due through 2023; and its debt reserve continues to trend downward after decreasing by almost $10 million since 2000.

The county is “ultimately on the hook for the agency’s debt and for compliance with environmental laws,” said Auerbach. “If the agency is not planning for success then the county will need to plan for its failure.”

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Confidential funds to go under Ulster comptroller’s microscope
WednesdayFebruary 2, 2011

(Copyright © 2010 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc)

KINGSTON – During the last four years, over $170,000 was paid in confidential investigations by the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department.

County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach Wednesday announced he has launched a review of the funds used to pay confidential informants and purchase evidence such as narcotics, weapons or stolen property, or purchase specific information where money is paid to a confidential source.

From 2007 to 2010, the Sheriff’s Office spent $135,000 in confidential funds and the DA’s Office spent $39,000.

“We understand the value to investigators of having access to cash,” Auerbach said. “While the controls over confidential investigation accounts have different protocols than other funds, our objective will be to assess the safeguards, the authorizations and record keeping for the use of these funds and to confirm that procedures are in place to ensure that transactions are proper, contain appropriate documentation and are disbursed in compliance.”