Mount Vernon – OK, it’s time for some REAL TALK! I have sat and watched and not reported every little detail in the Mount Vernon politics mess that has become a punchline throughout the county, national news and uttered out to the mouth of Whoopie Goldberg on ABC’s The View, Monday morning.
First, let me start off by saying I have been very critical of the Black Clergy for not speaking up enough against many of the things that are going on in the City of Mount Vernon, which I still stand by. But when people step up I have to give them credit the same way I was critical of them.
Monday the Black Clergy in Mount Vernon met to see what they can do to end this stalemate I have coined the Tale of Two Mayors. In one corner you have Richard W. Thomas who pled guilty to two misdemeanors in a deal that called for him to step down 80-something days later on September 30th. And in the other corner, you have the Council President André Wallace who the City Council swore in as the Acting Mayor after their interpretation of the Charter that when Mr. Thomas pled guilty he forfeited his position leaving the seat of the Mayor vacant.
Ok, so Monday the Black Clergy met and then called a meeting Tuesday Morning at Greater Centennial A.M.E. Zion Church requesting Thomas and Wallace’s presence so they could navigate an end to the madness. Present were up to 30 clergy members including Pastor Stephen Pogue (Centennial), Pastor Darren Morton (Macedonia), Pastor Jeffrey Wheeler (Mt. Calvary), Pastor Troy DeCohen (Mount Vernon Heights Congregational Church), President of the United Black Clergy and 20 something other members of the Clergy. Rev. Richardson (Grace Baptist Church) and Bishop Edwers (Friendship Worship Center) two of the most outspoken pastors in Mount Vernon were visibly absent.
André Wallace who we will refer to as Acting Mayor for the purpose of the editorial was early and spoke first. Richard Thomas who we will refer to as the former Mayor was late to the party as usual.
The clergy took the opportunity to question Acting Mayor Wallace why he felt it was important for Former Mayor Thomas to leave immediately and not be allowed to stay in office until the agreed-upon date of Septemeber 30th. Wallace made his case to the clergy highlighting of the actions of Thomas and how the city could not afford for the former mayor to remain in office another day.
One member of the Black Clergy we will refer to as Pastor X for anonymity informed Black Westchester that Acting Mayor Wallace made a strong case in his presentation to the clergy.
Then enters Former Mayor Thomas accompanied by his security when asked why should he stay in office until September 30th instead of making a case for himself went into a tirade painting a picture of Wallace as a loser who lost the election and came in last place and was just thirsty to be mayor. Warned not to attack the other by the clergy who also pointed out that both men lost the election so that would make both of them losers if he wanted to use that word, there is only one winner and she is not here. When given another chance Thomas failed to articulate why he should remain in office and present anything that sounded like a reasonable defense for himself.
Moving forward the clergy presented Thomas with an option where the council will work with Wallace, give Thomas a severance package – which would have to first be agreed to by the council – that would include his salary up to September 30th and Thomas would vacate City Hall within Seven days. Thomas strongly refused the terms and started throwing around a lot of other possibilities that were not on the table, including talking about Memorial Field.
I wouldn’t be fair not to add despite the title of this editorial, the Black Clergy then asked Wallace would he be willing to go back to the Council and have them reverse their decision and he did not agree to that as well.
Now let’s stop here, it has been said Thomas should be allowed to stay in office until Sept. 30th and leaving immediately would amount to a loss of salary up until that point. But by Thomas turning down the proposal – which was not finalized or put in writing – but by Thomas refusing to even entertain the proposal, leaves one to think it has to be about much more than a loss of salary and therein lies the problem. Why is Thomas so thirsty to stay in office? It leaves one to consider some of what Wallace pointed out in the meeting about the damage Thomas could do if left in office until Sept. 30th.
At one point a passionate Darren M. Morton, M.Ed., Commissioner of the Department of Recreation stated, he works with the employees of the city every day and many are scared, do not know who to answer to, do not know if they will have a job or a paycheck on any given day and since they do not know to trust or talk to the go the other way when they see Council members and other elected officials. Rev. Morton appeared to almost tear up a few times when discussing what this situation is doing to the city and the employees who are caught in the middle.
So after an extensive meeting, Thomas was not giving in and according to Pastor X was just interested in spinning his narrative. At one point when Thomas said he can not trust Wallace, the Council, the Comptroller, and others, he was asked if there was anyone in that room he trusted. After a very long hesitation, he finally said Pastor Pogue who is his pastor but he was heard bad-mouthing in public recently. It took several minutes for Thomas to name Pastor Pogue as someone he trusted while sitting in the man’s church.
Bottomline despite the best efforts of the Black Clergy, Thomas left defiantly and there was no agreement to move the city forward and bring about the end this current madness. Now REAL TALK collectively we can only hope for the future of our city that something said in this closed-door meeting resonated with both men and it will lead to some closure for the city. That said I do not think Thomas will step down or Wallace will back off but prayerfully the words of the Black Clergy will resonate. The clergy felt they were very close to a deal and as the number one critic of the Black Clergy, I applaud them to stepping up and getting involved and trying to move the city forward.
Now to all residents of Mount Vernon, it is important that we all come together for the future of the city and call for a conclusion to this madness because truthfully it does not matter who sits in the seat – but everyone agrees both men can not – there will be no smooth transition for the future mayor if our elected officials do not get it together. Its time for every one voice to be heard, call your elected officials, call the governor, these elected officials work for us not the other way around. Let them know how you feel, rally in front of City Hall, start a petition or whatever but it’s time for the residents to stand up. We must put an end of the Tale of Two Mayors and that’s REAL TALK!!!