Nationwide we are seeing several cases of watchful eyes at both the Federal and State levels of government; however at the local levels of government the misuse or abuse of government is running unbridled. Friday’s activities leaves us asking, is that what is going on in Mount Vernon? Is there an abuse & misuse of power in the Thomas Administration?
BW reported Councilman André Wallace served over a dozen people subpoenas on Friday involving the demolition of a zombie home located at 136 Park Avenue. News 12 reported later in the day that The Mount Vernon City Council has issued subpoenas to Mayor Richard Thomas and members of his administration over the demolition of a so-called zombie home. As many as 27 public officials were served subpoenas Friday following the demolition of the zombie home in January, according to News 12.
Not too long after the subpoena found its way to Mayor Richard Thomas, Acting Planning Commissioner Jamie Martinez, the only Hispanic Commissioner, was fired and escorted from City Hall, without a chance to gather his personal belongings. The move was alleged to have been in retaliation by the Mayor for being served the subpoena issued by Councilman André Wallace. It was no secret that Councilman Wallace was vocal in favor of Martinez, who serves at the pleasure of the Mayor, to stay on in the new administration, in a time when many developers are trying to stabilize their projects.
“The Mayor has the right to hire or fire anyone he wants, but to dismiss someone in a callous type of way, someone who has worked hard for City Hall for 5 1/2 years, 50-70 hours a week, speaks to his maturity,” Mr. Martinez tells BW. “I wanted certain items that were mine, including a personal computer, that I brought in because I was the supervisor of high school interns, and they needed something to work on. When I attempted to take my computer from the office the police officers, called down to the mayor’s office and I was told I have to take pictures of the items and put in a request for my belongings in writing. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to take my personal items.”
When Councilman Wallace was alerted that Mr. Martinez was not afforded the opportunity to collect his personal belongings including family photos and his college diploma, Wallace contacted Council President Marcus Griffith and the two councilpersons proceeded in City Hall to collect Mr. Martinez’s belongings. Mayor Thomas after being told over the phone by a city hall employee of Wallace and Griffith’s intentions, he allegedly called the Mount Vernon Police Department to report trespassers.
“How is it that City Council members, can be considered intruders to City Hall? Let it be known that the City Council is the body that assigns and allocates rooms in City Hall to ALL officials and departments, including the Mayor,” Council President Marcus A. Griffith tells BW.
“Council President Griffith and myself took the appropriate actions to intervene in a matter where the Mayor felt the need to dehumanize and demoralize a city worker,” Councilman Wallace tells BW. “This is black history month were we celebrate and acknowledge our past struggles as a people trying to achieve our own dignity and self-respect, and for the Mayor to behave in such a fashion by oppressing and humiliating others shows he hasn’t learned anything from history. The attempt by the Mayor to have us removed from the building was deliberate and put our lives in danger by calling in a false report after confirming that it was us before making a call to the police.”
As the officers stormed the building, community activist and local blogger Samuel L. Rivers thought the officers were coming for him. Rivers had just finished a News 12 interview, minutes before in front of City Hall on the subpoenas that were issued to Mayor Thomas and members of his administration over the demolition of a so-called zombie home.
“Mayor Thomas continues to abuse his authority at the expense of Mount Vernon taxpayers,” Rivers tells BW. “The mass response by the Mount Vernon Police Department converging on City Hall was unwarranted. Mayor Thomas must take some time to fully understand the city charter and comprehend that we are a city of laws. The City Council, not the Mayor is in charge of all the rooms in City Hall.”
When we reached out to the mayor, after the inaugural gala Saturday night he informed us, “The matter is still under investigation, so I can not comment at this time.”
We were unable to reach newly appointed Commissioner of Public Safety Robert ‘Bob’ Kelly for comment. But Commissioner Kelly is scheduled to appear on People Before Politics Radio, next Sunday, March 6th and we will discuss this and many other topics concerning the MVPD at that time.
“I felt slighted that I wasn’t informed by Mayor Thomas that he rather hire his own person, that he feels can handle the job better. People work hard for the betterment of the city and there are a lot of people who work in City Hall who can tell you I worked hard for the city,” Mr. Martinez stated.
While Mayor Thomas has been in office a little under two months, one can only wonder, how did it get to this point? Well the answer is incrementally; little by little like erosion. If the current administration thinks no one is watching, then basically they have free reign to do as they please. Is that exactly what they are doing, for the most part without accountability? Citizen and tax payers are so busy either trying to make a living, making ends meet, or trying to have a life that little time is available to watch the local government’s decisions, actions, or in most cases their inaction.
When community leaders and local media shed light on these actions, they are looked at or accused of beating up on the new administration and now giving the new mayor a chance to transition into his new position. But I say to all who feel this way, is it better to sit back and watch the incremental erosion and say nothing because the elected official just got into office? Is it better to wait the tradition 100 day honeymoon period and let things get to a point of no return?
Many complained about the prior administration’s methods and actions and voted for a much-needed change, but what happens when that change is not in the right direction. Many have accused the Davis Administration for ruling with a retaliatory fist, but this latest alleged act of Mayor Thomas looks much like the same game despite a change in players.
“The administration’s decision to terminate certain employees is allowed via the City Charter. However, taking away long-term employees Human Rights, livelihood, and dignity is not what the City of Mount Vernon is about,” informs Councilman Griffith. “As Council President, I will consider every circumstance and use my authority to correct the Mayor and his administrations wrongs. It is clearly within the City Council’s direct authority to have full access to City Hall and all City property, at any time, and by all sources of access, without limitation.”
Even with it all said and done, the way things were handled and how he was dismissed with no respect, Mr. Martinez holds no malice toward the city and the new administration and still believes this is a great city.
“I strongly believe the City of Mount Vernon has promise and is wonderful all the way around. I feel that the problems with Mt. Vernon that people speak about is mainly the dysfunctional activities taking place in City Hall. I hope the city can return back to the right track. There are many investors who want to invest in Mount Vernon and there is over a billion dollars on the table in investments and people may not want to continue to invest in the city with the way the new administration is running things,” Mr. Martinez tells BW in closing.
A quote attributed to the late Speaker of the House Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill Jr. in 2003, that “all politics is local”. If this is true, and we believe it is, then what happens locally is of utmost importance to us, and it’s vital that we keep a watchful eye on those who make decisions that affect our daily lives locally. That is BW’s primary purpose of writing this editorial and we intend to do exactly that.