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.

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