Former county auditor Lisa Cutten will run on the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party lines for the post of county comptroller.
A veteran of the administration of former county executive Mike Hein, Cutten faces a challenge from nonprofit director March Gallagher who holds the Democratic Party line. The two women will vie to replace ex-county comptroller Elliot Auerbach, who stepped down earlier this year to take a post in the office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
“In my view the people of Ulster County should have a choice,” said Cutten. “And they were not being given a choice.”
Cutten is a registered Democrat who headed up an auditing unit working directly for Hein until the unit was disbanded and she was let go by new County Executive Pat Ryan last month. In June, Cutten lost out to Gallagher in a vote by members of the Ulster County Democratic Committee to choose a candidate for the November election. (The selection was done by a committee vote because Auerbach’s resignation in May came too close to the June primary to allow candidates to get on that ballot). Cutten lost to Gallagher by a margin of 1,400 to 800, using weighted voting.
One week after the Democratic caucus, Cutten was dismissed from her county job. Cutten said she believes the dismissal was intended to thwart a potential challenge and position Gallagher for an eventual run at the county exec’s office. (County officials have said that the dismissal was simply to eliminate duplicative services in county government between her office and the county comptroller’s).
“Quite frankly, my dismissal put things in quite a different light,” said Cutten.
Cutten, a CPA, is running on her long experience in municipal finance, including stints as Kingston’s treasurer, as county budget director before the 2009 transition to a county executive form of government and in the comptroller’s and county exec’s offices afterward. In her capacity as county auditor, Cutten uncovered massive financial fraud involving a former county contractor, the Lower Esopus River Watch.
“In terms of watching out for the people’s money, I have done it for a very long time and I have done it successfully,” said Cutten.
Gallagher is an attorney and, until resigning to run her campaign, CEO of Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley. The nonprofit administers millions in charitable contributions and grants on behalf of local community organizations.
Not a ‘backroom deal” says Gallagher
Gallagher dismissed Cutten’s portrayal of her selection as the Democratic party candidate as a “backroom deal” and denied having any aspirations for the county executive’s office. Gallagher noted that both she and Cutten spent the six weeks leading up to the caucus making their pitches to town Democratic committees in what she likened to a “really tough job interview.” Gallagher added that her vision for the comptroller’s office goes beyond serving as a watchdog over county funds and includes seeking innovative ways to use taxpayer dollars more effectively and efficiently.
“I bring a great set of skills to this office,” said Gallagher. “Yes, you need CPA’s in the comptroller’s office, but you also need vision.”