Hein administration, Ulster IDA cross swords

This is not going to be an amicable divorce.

At a special meeting in Kingston Wednesday morning, January 2, the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency voted 7-0 to sign a five-month contract with the Kingston-based Galileo Technology Group to provide administrative services at $4,000 a month. The previous IDA contract for such services with Ulster County government’s office of economic development expired at the end of December. The IDA expects to put out a Request for Proposals about what will happen after the five months.

On Wednesday afternoon the IDA was preparing a press release lauding Galileo, a consulting firm headed by former IBMer Vince Cozzolino, for its professional skills. At the same time, it was expected to assure the Ulster County public that it would continue to work with the county economic development office on projects that met the IDA’s mission statement “to advance the job opportunities, general prosperity and long-term vitality of the county.”

For her part, county economic development head Suzanne Holt wrote IDA chair Randall Leverette a Dec. 31 letter saying her office could not recommend to County Executive Mike Hein that it “continue to provide administrative support and services for your organizations.” She said in that New Year’s Eve missive that she had “grave and fundamental concerns regarding the direction of the IDA’s leadership.”

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Holt also defended her office’s track record under its contract with the IDA.

“As you know,” she wrote, “the Ulster County business community has consistently acknowledged the quality work that my team has done for your organization and for economic development in general.”

There are wide differences of opinion as to the effectiveness of Ulster County’s efforts at economic development in the years of Holt’s service. The paperwork handling of her office has been flawless, but critics of her business skills, particularly when it comes to deal-making and entrepreneurship, have questioned her office’s performance. The amount of local economic development in the post-Great Recession era hasn’t been impressive.    

Ulster legislature Economic Development Committee chair Jim Maloney was present at the Monday IDA meeting to express his support for the work that Holt’s four-person department has performed. They did an enormous amount of paperwork, Maloney said, and they did it well. He cited a variety of major IDA projects Ulster County has completed over the past few years. He reminded the IDA of his committee’s oversight of all economic development projects — including the administrative-services contract being discussed that morning. 

According to IDA chair Leverette, the IDA was willing to sign the contract extending the county’s services to the agency another year, but Ulster County refused to include the 30-day opt-out provision that Leverette said had been in previous contracts. That and that alone caused the board members of his agency to reconsider its options, Leverette said. And they were unanimous in their views.

The authority of Jim Maloney’s support for Holt will be limited by the impending reorganization of the legislature next Monday, Jan. 7, when it looks as though his chairmanship will be under a serious challenge from the Democrats. That’s when the rubber will meet the political road, with Saugerties independent legislator Joe Maloney’s (no relation) vote likely to be decisive. 

Leverette said he has not talked with Jim Maloney, likely Democratic leader Hector Rodriguez or Hein about the IDA’s administrative alternatives. It wasn’t all a pre-arranged plot, he insisted.

Holt said the IDA had negotiated in bad faith.

What a script for Judge Judy!