Ulster County Attorney Andrew Kossover resigned this month after an investigation revealed he failed to submit paperwork for $2.5 million in county reimbursements over the past six years.
“As County Executive, one of my most important responsibilities is to effectively manage our budget and be a good steward of taxpayer funds,” said County Executive Pat Ryan in a press release on Feb. 14. “I expect every leader and member of my administration to do the same.”
However, this was not the case for the Public Defender’s Office (PDO), which “provides legal representation to indigent clients in the criminal courts and Family Court in Ulster County [and] provides representation at the appellate level for criminal and family court cases,” according to the County’s website.
One of the PDO’s required responsibilities is to submit paperwork to the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services (NYSILS) to receive operational revenue funding from the State for the County.
NYSILS assists “county governments and indigent legal services providers in the exercise of their responsibility under County Law Article 18-B to provide the effective assistance of counsel to those persons who are legally entitled to counsel, but cannot afford to hire an attorney.”
On Feb. 14, it was revealed that over the past six consecutive years, Kossover and his office “repeatedly and inexplicably failed to submit” this paperwork, which resulted in the County missing $2.5 million that it was expecting to receive.
According to Ryan, “this amounts to nearly 3% of the County’s entire property tax levy for this year.”
The County was unaware that this $2.5 million was missing, so they had included it in the budget and spent $1.9 million of it. Because the paperwork to receive reimbursements for this $1.9 million was not filed by the Public Defender’s Office, it was up to taxpayers over the years to cover the missing part of the bill.
On Feb. 14, Kossover resigned and First Deputy Public Defender Clifford Owens was appointed as interim public defender. The office is now working with NYSILS to “process claims for past work” which Ryan said they “are confident that [they] will be able to recoup a significant portion of the previously unclaimed funds.”
In addition to looking into receiving these reimbursements, Ryan has asked the County Comptroller March Gallagher to further review the past six years’ worth of finances from the PDO, and has “taken steps to ensure that this type of mismanagement never occurs again.”
“As County Executive, I have pledged to provide a more responsive and responsible government and to ensure justice for all our County residents,” Ryan said in the press release. “Today, we have followed through on that pledge and we will continue to work hard every day to ensure we are protecting our taxpayers while providing superior services to those who need it most.”