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Two Democrats Seek Office Of Ulster County Comptroller

Two Democrats have thrown their hats into the ring for Ulster County comptroller. The position is open after four-term Democrat Elliot Auerbach announced last week he is leaving mid-month for a job with New York state.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced May 2 that he had appointed Auerbach as deputy comptroller for the Division of Local Government and School Accountability. Auerbach begins his new role May 16. The next day, March Gallagher, who once served in the Ulster County executive’s administration and is the president and CEO of Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, said she would run for county comptroller.

“Well, Allison, I have worked on getting the charter passed in Ulster County and, ever since that time, kind of looked longingly at the duties of the comptroller’s office, which I think has broad responsibility not just as the primary audit responsibility for the county but also best practices and bringing other opportunities to Ulster County operations in terms of efficiencies,” says Gallagher. “So I’ve always been looking at that job thinking, wow, that would be a really cool job to do. And when Elliott announced he was leaving, I had to jump into the fray.”

Gallagher served as director of Business Services and deputy director of Planning under Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, who left the county for a state position earlier this year. Gallagher, who plans to formally kick off her campaign May 10, wants to take a fresh look at county agencies and departments.

“Ulster County has a bunch of unclaimed funds that are listed on the state comptroller’s web site and I think that’s something that should be cleaned up pretty quickly, whether it’s $5,000 or $500,000, and we won’t know until we really look into those. But also, we have a number of agencies and public authorities that I think might need a deeper look. You have state assemblymembers calling for examination of things like UCRRA, and I think we should be doing those thinks in house,” Gallagher says. “And I just want to go back to my history in transparency and accountability, and those are the kind of things, the skills that I’m going to bring to this job, implementing first-time project oversight at Ulster County Industrial Development Agency, implementing clawbacks and retracting PILOT agreements where projects didn’t perform.”

UCRRA is the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency. Fellow Democrat Lisa Cutten announced her candidacy for county comptroller on May 8. Since 2014, she’s been the Ulster County Director of Accountability, Compliance & Efficiency.

“Well, I have almost 40 years’ experience in auditing, accounting, 25 of which has been spent serving local government. And I want to have a voice directly answerable to the people. And I think that I can provide real value to the taxpayers of Ulster County,” Cutten says. “I’ve been successful in stopping fraud in the past, in other organizations as well as at Ulster County, and I want to be able to do that full time for the people.”

The career government finance professional says she’s been eying the office.

“Yeah, I was the county auditor before the charter form of government was implemented. So, yeah, it’s something that I understand the opportunities of the comptroller’s office and what the value for the people is,” says Cutten. “And, yeah, at the point where Elliott moved on, that opportunity was something I have been looking for.”

The special election for Ulster County comptroller is set for November. Meantime, the county legislature will appoint an interim comptroller. Gallagher speaks to her competition.

“Look, I think it’s great that we have multiple women stepping up, and I think it’s good that there will be a choice, at least at the convention level,” says Gallagher. “And I’m planning to sit down with Lisa and see if we can exchange some ideas. I’m sure that no matter what capacity we’ll each be in in the future that we’ll be able to work together.”

And Cutten, a certified public accountant, addresses running against Gallagher, an attorney.

“As a CPA, as a career accountability person, I do believe that I’m the best qualified,” says Cutten. “We have, for instance, across the river in Dutchess County where the previous comptroller, county comptroller, was an attorney and the current comptroller is a CPA, and I think that the value that someone with a background and experience in accounting and auditing in, quite frankly, the accountability business has to offer the people is substantial, and so I think it’s going to be a real clear choice for people.”

Democrat Pat Ryan won a special election April 30 for county executive. Ryan has a November rematch against Republican Jack Hayes.

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