A joint statement released from Ulster County executive Pat Ryan and county comptroller March Gallagher on Friday, August 26 challenges the veracity of an allegation first printed by the Daily Freeman contending fiscal mismanagement by Ulster County finance commissioner Burt Gulnick.
A former confidential secretary to Gulnick, Heather Mikesh, alleged in court papers that her old boss tried to camouflage a million-dollar mistake made by county payroll supervisor Wendy Trojak.
Ryan addressed the million-dollar mixup in the statement: “In 2020, our team proactively identified an erroneous wire transfer to the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance,” said Ryan, “as a duplicate payment of approximately one million dollars in spring 2020, which was identified by the Finance Department within days. This issue was swiftly resolved, money was returned with interest, and there was no harm to Ulster County taxpayers.”
Mikesh, who was terminated from her position as secretary to the commissioner in April 2020, is currently suing both Trojak and Gulnick in the New York Supreme Court in Ulster County for discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. According to Mikesh, she was demoted and then, following her attempts to stop the alleged discrimination, terminated.
A transcript was released to correspondent William J. Kemble of the Daily Freeman by Harris Marks, a personal injury lawyer from the Fifth Avenue law firm of Belluck and Fox, LLP.
Kemble reported that Mikesh had alleged that no investigation had so far been done by the county into the funds accidentally paid out “because Burt buried it so deep that even our accountants didn’t find it.”
It was further alleged that Gulnick had endeavored to hide the payroll supervisor’s mistake so the comptroller’s office wouldn’t find out.
“At the time, the comptroller’s office was really on him,” asserted Mikesh in court papers, “and they kind of were butting heads big time, and he did not want the comptroller’s office to be aware of this mistake.”
When the allegations appeared in print, comptroller March Gallagher appeared blindsided by the news. But by last Sunday Gallagher had put out a statement explaining that her office was investigating the claims put forth by Mikesh, and that she would use every resource available to determine the extent of the alleged cover-up.
The investigation undertaken by the comptroller’s office seems to have resolved the matter for her. “The Comptroller’s Office and Executive’s Office separately reviewed the transactions associated with the allegation and the related documentation and reached the same conclusion,” Gallagher said in a press release. “We have determined that there was an overpayment of taxes to the State of New York, that when identified was rectified, and eventually refunded to the county with interest. There was no financial loss to the taxpayers because of the error.”
At this time, neither commissioner Gulnick nor Trojak have responded to repeated requests for comment. Neither had the counsel for the plaintiff, Harris Mark