Gone Girl

Subtitle: Forget Baby Jane, whatever happened to Lisa Cutten?

A tight lid of secrecy has been clamped down on the fate of Lisa Cutten, former Democratic candidate for county comptroller.

Cutten was last seen slinking from the June 27th Democratic nominating convention which endorsed March Gallagher for comptroller by an almost 2-1 margin.

Over the weekend following the Thursday evening convention, word started to leak out that Cutten was about to lose a lot more than a nomination, like her $100,000 a year job as head of the county’s ACE (Accountability, Compliance and Efficiency) department. If so, and it appears that way, this would have been hardball politics with vengeance. Who would have thought it of those friendly, smiling people? It’s one thing to humiliate a legitimate candidate at the convention, quite another to eliminate one’s livelihood. And so suddenly.

Calls to directly affected parties “couldn’t connect”. The closest the public has come to any acknowledgment of the Cutten affair has been a cryptic no-comment from executive branch communications officer Dan Torres, buried in a press release about the formation of an executive “Innovation Team” headed by wunderkind Tim Weidermann.

The history of ACE
, from what we know of this murky operation, may give some insight into this Cutten business.

ACE was formed by former executive Mike Hein and adopted by a compliant legislature about three years ago at the height of the executive-comptroller wars. Hein had primed that pump by wondering out loud why there was even a need for a charter-mandated comptroller when he, the executive, already had all the fiscal acumen and oversight the county needed. He could in effect watch over himself, he told the legislature, and they bought it. As I recall, he used the word “superfluous” in describing rival Elliott Auerbach’s operation.

That might have been a Freudian slip
on Hein’s part because as best as can be determined, ACE, Hein’s watchdog, filed only one report during its three-year existence. If you guessed comptroller’s office, go to the head of the class. If abuse of power comes to mind, so be it.

It would now appear that Cutten herself has become superfluous. Ah, the exquisite irony. With former Hein chief of staff Adele Reiter as acting comptroller for the rest of the year and Gallagher facing no opponent in November, who needs oversight from the executive department? And as Hein had pointed out, rightly or wrongly, with sufficient fiscal fire power of its own, why would the executive need an ACE, a potential disruptor?

Weep not for Cutten. She rolled the dice. A talented professional with decades of municipal accounting experience, she’ll catch on somewhere else. Besides, she’s been down this road before, having been fired by both parties. This one was just messier than some of the others.

One hopes, as the smoke clears, that what Torres dodged as a “personnel matter” does not become the template for the new administration.

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