Auerbach quits Ulster County comptroller job; two candidates emerge

Elliott Auerbach, March Gallagher and Lisa Cutten.

Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach said this week he will step down later this month to take a new post in the office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Auerbach is the second top county official to take a job in state government; former county executive Mike Hein resigned in February to take over as commissioner of the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. 

On May 2, DiNapoli announced that Auerbach had been appointed deputy comptroller for his office’s Division of Local Government and School Accountability. In his new post, Auerbach will manage a staff of about 330, spread across seven regional offices. Auerbach’s responsibilities include managing audits and budget reviews and assigning “fiscal stress” scores to more than 1,000 municipalities and 700 school districts outside of New York City. Auerbach’s division is also responsible for training local government officials on fiscal issues. Auerbach’s new job also comes with a hefty raise, from his current salary of $101,709 to $150,000.

“It puts me on the ground, doing what I do now, but on a much larger scale,” said Auerbach of the new job.

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Auerbach was elected Ulster County’s first comptroller back in 2009 and is currently in the fourth term. Prior to that, he served as mayor of the Village of Ellenville and on the board of Ulster’s Industrial Development Agency. As comptroller, Auerbach defined his role as the county’s fiscal watchdog by carrying out audits of departments and issuing periodic reports on county finances. Auerbach’s aggressive oversight placed him on a collision course at times with Hein over the rights and responsibilities of their respective offices. Under the County Charter, the Ulster County Legislature will appoint an interim comptroller; Auerbach said he had requested the job go to the current deputy comptroller, Evan Gallo.

“He has no desire to run for the office and he is well versed in how the office runs and the people here,” said Auerbach. “He’s a natural choice for the interim.”

On Election Day, Nov. 5, voters will elect a new comptroller to serve out the remainder of Auerbach’s term which ends on Dec. 31, 2021. A November 2021 election will confer a full four-year term on the winner.

So far, two candidates — both Democrats — have stepped forward to seek the comptroller’s office: not-for-profit administrator March Gallagher and County Director of Accountability, Compliance and Efficiency Lisa Cutten.

Gallagher is a 50-year-old attorney and Rosendale resident. Currently, she’s president and CEO of Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley. The nonprofit administers and provides a foundation structure for millions of dollars in charitable donations. Currently, Gallagher said, the foundation holds $70 million and assets and issues about $10 million in grant funding annually. Gallagher also served as chair of the Ulster County IDA from 2006 to 2008 and has also served on audit committees for a number of nonprofit groups.

“I’m the kind of person enjoys spending the evening at home reading financial records,” said Gallagher. “If you want to know what’s going on, you always look at the money.”

Gallagher is planning a campaign kickoff event on Friday, May 10 at 3 p.m. at the County Office Building in Uptown Kingston. Meanwhile, she has already secured one important endorsement — from the man who she hopes to follow in the county comptroller’s chair. Auerbach said that he met Gallagher while serving alongside her on the IDA; he praised Gallagher’s skills and financial acumen and said she would be a worthy successor.

“She has the skills and she has tremendous insight,” said Auerbach. “She will walk in here and be able to perform on day one.”

Cutten is a Kingston resident and CPA with long experience in municipal finance. She’s held the job of county compliance officer since 2014. Before that, Cutten served as the county’s deputy budget director and as a senior Auditor in Auerbach’s office. She has also worked as comptroller for the towns of Poughkeepsie and Fishkill and as Kingston’s city treasurer.

“This is not a stepping stone for me. I did not jump into the accountability business because there was an opening,” wrote Cutten in a press release announcing her candidacy this week. “I have been working towards this chance serve the people in this capacity for years.”

There are 4 comments

  1. Felix Milan

    March Gallagher has been a failure in every position she’s ever held. Lisa Cutten is qualified and an independent thinker.

  2. hayley

    March Gallagher has successfully and tirelessly worked to accomplish so much for our local communities and would make a great UC Comptroller. You’ve got my vote March.

  3. Steven L. Fornal

    March Gallagher is an accomplished attorney, organizer, executive officer, community activist, etc. Even Elliot Auerbach stated that she was eminently qualified for the position.

    Ulster County would be well served by having Ms. Gallagher as Comptroller.

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