No money lost due to million-dollar mistake, county says
A joint statement issued by Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and County Comptroller March Gallagher on Friday August 26 disputes the veracity of an allegation first printed by the daily freeman challenging fiscal mismanagement by Ulster County Finance Commissioner Burt Gulnick.
A confidential former Gulnick secretary, Heather Mikesh, alleged in court papers that her former boss tried to cover up a million-dollar mistake made by county payroll supervisor Wendy Trojak.
Ryan addressed the million-dollar mix-up in the statement, “In 2020, our team proactively identified an erroneous wire transfer to the NYS Tax and Finance Department,” Ryan said, “as a payment duplicate of approximately $1 million in the spring of 2020, which was identified by the Treasury Department within days. This issue was quickly resolved, the money was returned with interest, and Ulster County taxpayers n suffered no harm.
Mikesh, who was fired from her position as secretary to the commissioner in April 2020, is currently suing Trojak and Gulnick in the New York Supreme Court in Ulster County for workplace discrimination and retaliation. According to Mikesh, she was demoted and then, following her attempts to end the alleged discrimination, fired.
A transcript was given to correspondent William J. Kemble of the daily freeman by Harris Marks, a personal injury attorney with the law firm of Fifth Avenue Belluck and Fox, LLP.
Kemble reported that Mikesh alleged that no investigation had so far been conducted by the county into the funds accidentally paid “because Burt buried it so deep that even our accountants couldn’t find it.”
It was further alleged that Gulnick tried to hide the payroll supervisor’s error so that the comptroller’s office would not find out.
“At the time, the comptroller’s office was really on to him,” Mikesh claimed in court papers, “and they kind of butted heads, and he didn’t want the comptroller’s office to know about it. this mistake.”
When the allegations were published, Comptroller March Gallagher appeared blindsided by the news. But last Sunday, Gallagher issued a statement explaining that her office was investigating the allegations put forward by Mikesh and that she would use all available resources to determine the extent of the alleged cover-up.
The investigation undertaken by the comptroller’s office appears to have solved the case for her. “The Office of the Comptroller and the Office of the Executive separately reviewed the transactions associated with the allegation and related documentation and reached the same conclusion,” Gallagher said in a press release. “We determined that there was an overpayment of taxes to New York State, which, when identified, was rectified and ultimately refunded to the county with interest. There was no financial loss to taxpayers due to the error.
At this time, neither Commissioner Gulnick nor Trojak have responded to repeated requests for comment. The plaintiff’s attorney, Harris Mark