Comptroller Exits

“So, did you have a big party, you know, sex, drugs and rock and roll?” I asked former Ulster Comptroller Elliott Auerbach the day before he resigned for a job with the state comptroller.

“We did that every Friday,” he replied, speaking of his decade in the office.  Funny guy.

Less hilarious is the mish-mash left in the wake Auerbach’s near sudden-departure. I’m not blaming Auerbach; a person has the right to advance his or her career, and who could turn down a 47,000 raise with staff galore? Former exec Mike Hein did even better.

Auerbach’s last official act was to recommend in the most glowing terms that the county legislature consider his loyal deputy, Evan Gallo, to fill out his term until the end of the year. Good luck with that. After auditing their mileage accounts a few years ago, the ex-comptroller has few friends in the legislature.

The choices for this $103,000 plum (Auerbach’s salary) come down to the two announced Democratic candidates for comptroller, March Gallagher of Rosendale and Lisa Cutten of Kingston. Or, there may be a dark horse in the field, perhaps a county legislator. Working against a legislative candidate is that annoying Tantillo Rule, that says a legislator cannot accept appointment to a county job until he or she is at least a year removed from office.

here will be push-back. Democrats have a 12-11 majority in the legislature, but Democrats, as Will Rogers famously observed, don’t always stick together.

Meanwhile, the wheels are turning, and they’d better be PDQ about it. According to the county charter, the legislature can act no sooner than two weeks after a vacancy occurs or no later than four weeks. There will be no special election and no primaries. That cuckoo clock started ticking when Auerbach took T-Way exit 19 to Albany on May 15.

The legislature’s next regular session is May 21, probably not sufficient time to get ducks lined up. A special session could be called, or they could wait to the mid-June hard deadline. Gallo, who doesn’t seem to be on anybody’s short list, the sins of the comptroller having been visited on his designated successor, could serve a day or a month, it doesn’t matter. He’ll be paid the comptroller’s salary, a nice bump from his deputy pay of $81,181. Just to roil the waters, Auerbach, while recommending Gallo for short-erm appointment, is supporting Gallagher for the long haul. That’s politics, baby.

Nothing surprises me anymore. Democratic committee members will convene in Rosendale (Gallagher country) on June 27 to choose a nominee. I would not be stunned if the legislature preempts the convention by anointing on or about June 111 what is increasingly viewed as the favorite daughter.