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 www.ulstercountyny.gov/comptroller . Just click on the e-mail link at 340-FLAW@co.ulster.ny.us.

“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)