KINGSTON, NY – An Ulster County lawmaker has asked that the county’s finance commissioner be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the county’s failure to seize local property whose owner owes more than $10 million dollars in back taxes.
Lawmaker Joseph Maloney said placing Finance Commissioner Burt Gulnick on furlough pending an investigation will ‘allay fears about the Finance Commissioner’s performance, if not conduct’ as well as concerns about conflicts of interest potential if Gulnick is tasked with determining what documents can be released as part of this investigation.
“The people of this county have a right to know what happened with this property and a right to know if it happened with other properties in Ulster,” Maloney, D-Saugerties, said in a statement. press release dated April 29. “I suggested it might be due to relationships, but at the very least it appears to be a lack of basic oversight, controls and processes, which is unacceptable.”
Maloney first called for an investigation into the county’s failure to seize 701 Grant Ave. following an April 19 meeting of the County Legislature Ways and Means Committee meeting. Although the property appeared on county foreclosure lists, including in 2020, in each case it was later delisted and no foreclosure proceedings were ever initiated.
At that meeting and again in his statement, Maloney suggested that the pay-to-play policy could be the reason the landlord was allowed to avoid paying property taxes for over a decade, pointing out that the landlord made campaign contributions to former County Executive Michael Hein during a time when Gulnick was Hein’s campaign treasurer.
It was this suggestion that prompted Gulnick to leave the committee meeting.
The office building located at 701 Grant Ave. is owned by Ulster Acquisition I LLC, a real estate company located in New York. According to the County Executive’s Office, $10,104,565 in back taxes are owed on the property.
According to records filed with the county clerk’s office, Ulster Acquisition I LLC has filed numerous challenges to its valuation, dating back to 2013.
Following the April 19 committee meeting, Comptroller March Gallagher announced that her office would expand an audit of the county’s real estate collection process already underway to include property at 701 Grant Ave.
County Executive Pat Ryan declined to comment on Maloney’s appeal for Gulnick to be placed on administrative leave.
In a prepared statement, Deputy County Manager Chris Kelly said the Ryan administration had “from day one” been aggressive in its effort to seize Tech City, a former IBM property he said was the “largest overdue property in the county”. This property belonged to real estate developer Alan Ginsberg and was not affiliated with the property located at 701 Grant Ave.
Kelly said the administration has also developed a “brownfields reclamation program” and has “entered into discussions with members of our legislature to help inform a countywide policy for the disposition of properties. eligible for seizure which will provide us with the tools and processes to deal with this (property) responsibly and expeditiously. »