KINGSTON – Ulster County
Comptroller Elliott Auerbach’s effort to block the county from reducing
his staff size by some 10 percent was rejected by a State Supreme Court
Auerbach maintained the reduction of one full-timer and the hours of a
part-time would make it extremely difficult for his office to carry out
its independent review of county spending.
County Executive Michael Hein and Auerbach are both Democrats. Following
the ruling by Justice Richard Mott, Hein said “justice was done…
in favor of the property taxpayers of Ulster County, the county executive
and the Ulster County Legislature in the in the frivolous lawsuit”
brought by Auerbach.
Two county legislators contend the cuts were punitive in apparent retaliation
for the audit of executive initiatives and an attempt to intimidate over
Auerbach’s report of waste in county government spending.
The county officials said that the resolution authorizing the reductions
violates no laws and that it was the consequence of a fully vetted and
appropriately conducted budget process.
Judge Mott dismissed the lawsuit in its entirety stating “there
is insufficient evidence of a concrete public interest benefit.”
Hein said with “meritless lawsuits like this,” Auerbach is
“running the risk of costing the county taxpayers far more than
he has ever saved them.”
Auerbach said his effort was clear from the start, “to prevent the
limiting effect on our ability to perform independent audits and reviews
of county programs and expenses. We wanted to ensure autonomous oversight
on $300 million of the public’s money while recouping the over 2210
‘man hours’ that were eviscerated from our budget and reduced
from the auditing staff.”
The comptroller said his goal “was not to be forced away from identifying
financial blind spots simply because they were controversial or politically
The court also rejected Auerbach’s request to have the county pay
his legal expenses, which Auerbach estimated to be “in the thousands.”