"As County Executive, one of my most important responsibilities is to effectively manage our budget and be a good steward of taxpayer funds. I expect every leader and member of my administration to do the same.
Subsequent to a multi-year financial analysis of the Public Defender’s Office while implementing my administration’s first budget, we discovered that nearly $2.5 million over six straight years in expected and budgeted operational revenue from the State had never been received. This amounts to nearly 3% of the County’s entire property tax levy for this year. The Office repeatedly and inexplicably failed to submit routine and required paperwork to the State Office of Indigent Legal Services (NYSILS) to receive that funding.
During this six year period, the county budgeted for and spent $1.9 million of these routinely grant funded operations in the Public Defender’s Office. By not claiming for services the County has already provided, Ulster County taxpayers were on the hook to cover the bill year after year. This is a fundamental failure of leadership within, and oversight of, the Public Defender’s office. We are also working to understand how this disappointing failure in oversight was not identified and remedied sooner.
Today, I accepted the resignation of Andrew Kossover as Ulster County Public Defender and appointed First Deputy Public Defender Clifford Owens as Interim Public Defender. We are working with the State Office of Indigent Legal Services to process claims for past work and ensure that we follow all the guidelines to properly claim for these funds in a timely fashion in the future. We are confident that we will be able to recoup a significant portion of the previously unclaimed funds.
Additionally, I will be asking Ulster County Comptroller March Gallagher to conduct a comprehensive review of the past six years of the Public Defender’s finances. My administration has also taken steps to ensure that this type of mismanagement never occurs again by more closely scrutinizing funds we receive from State and Federal agencies and providing proper oversight for every department that receives grant funding.
As County Executive, I have pledged to provide a more responsive and responsible government and to ensure justice for all our County residents. Today, we have followed through on that pledge and we will continue to work hard every day to ensure we are protecting our taxpayers while providing superior services to those who need it most."