The Perfect Plan

It took me a few months, but I think I’ve finally figured out this county government succession/succession conspiracy. This whole thing was put together, step by step months before former county executive Mike Hein announce in February that he was resigning for a state job in Albany.

No one will confirm (or deny) this, but for proof, just look at the latest evidence. Adele Reiter, Hein’s former chief of staff and hand-picked successor, will be unless cows fly over the Catskills, appointed interim county comptroller by the legislature at special session on Tuesday night. And it’s the Republican minority, with a handful of Democrats, who will do it.

Imagine, Democrats hold a 12-11 majority, but it will be Republicans, in solidarity, who will decide this issue.

More than ever, this saga demonstrates the near absolute control the Hein administration had over the legislature, regardless of which party had the majority over the last ten years.

Former legislative chairman Ken Ronk of Wallkill always spoke of “cooperation” with the executive branch during his three years in the chair. Recent events make it sound more like collusion. Ronk was the first to publicly advance Reiter’s candidacy last week.

The question is what will Republicans get for this last horse-trade. Hein is gone. Reiter stepped down as interim executive after Pat Ryan was sworn in as executive last week. No juice there. Ryan doesn’t owe anybody anything, though he reportedly developed a respectful, if not close working relationship with Reiter during the brief time between when he won a special election for executive on April 28 and June 7 when he was sworn in.

Democrats, as usual, are divided between three potential appointees, Rief Kanan, a SUNY-New Paltz accounting professor, lauded for independence and accounting experience, Evan Gallo, the former deputy comptroller appointed interim comptroller by former comptroller Elliot Auerbach and Reiter, cited for her administrative experience and familiarity with government under Hein and briefly in her own right.

Democrats are as usual divided, but in one of those ironies within an irony, several members will make a strong case against Democrat Reiter’s being comptroller (by charter, the county’s official auditor), for having a conflict of interest in overseeing the administration she once served.

Not to blow my own horn – Toot. Toot. Ta. Ta. Honk – but I raised this issue in a column last week in questioning where Reiter’s future loyalties might lie.

The Association of Local Government Auditors, in an obviously requested letter dated June 7 to legislature chairman Tracey Bartels, puts it this way: “Government Auditing Standards (GAS) promulgated by the Comptroller General of the United States, discourages appointing senior management staff to auditing positions were they could audit work or functions they recently oversaw or were responsible for as managers.”

Bingo, a textbook statement of conflict of interest.

But will it matter? “Sure, it matters,” said Democratic majority leader Jonathan Heppner of Woodstock “It matters a lot. But they have the votes.”

Neither of the two announced Democratic candidates for election to a full term in November, March Gallagher and Lisa Cutten, were considered by either party for the interim appointment.

“We decided, and I think the other party agrees, to let that process play itself out,” Heppner said. Democratic committee members will meet at the convention on June 27 in Rosendale to choose between the candidates. I’m beginning to wonder if the dark forces that have taken us to this point haven’t rigged that process as well.