New Year, New Decade, New Administration, Same Dysfunction in Mount Vernon City Hall. When covering a story in Mount Vernon you have to peel back the layers like an onion before you get close to the truth. While all the details are not in on this one, here is what we know…
Mount Vernon Council Marcus A. Griffith unilaterally fired Deputy City Clerk Lauren Carter, Tuesday afternoon. While the City Clerk and Deputy City Clerk serve at the pleasure of the City Council, it takes a majority of the Council to make these decisions.
Maybe it was a gamble on his part where he believed he would have to votes to back his play, but it appears on the surface that is not the case. With the five-member council, you need at least three (four for a supermajority vote) votes are needed to pass. At least two of three council members that did not weigh in on the decision or agree with Griffith’s actions have spoken out against the move.
“I was informed this afternoon that the Deputy City Clerk Lauren Carter was dismissed by City Council member Marcus Griffith,” Councilwoman Delia Farquharson said in a statement.” I was not aware, and I disagree with this decision. I subsequently conferred with two other council members who told me that they too were ignorant of this decision, and they did not agree with the decision at this time (see entire statement below).”
One of the council members, Councilwoman Farquahrson spoke of, Councilwoman Janice Duarte states the move by Griffith threatens the integrity of the council.
“Any actions regarding changes in personnel and appointments under the purview of the City Council should not be taken without the body convening, discussing and agreeing,” Councilwoman Janice Duarte shared with Black Westchester. “When such actions are taken without convening the City Council the integrity of the City Council as an institution and a branch of government is compromised.”
Since this wasn’t done in public with a vote on the floor, its leaves room for a lot of speculations like was Carter was fired in retaliation of her support of Andre Wallace in the mayoral race and questions like why wasn’t vote done in public with a vote and on the floor like other decisions the council makes.
Past practice was that the council would vote for clerk and deputy clerk in December with the “formal” floor vote taking place at the statutory meeting in January. It was not secret the council wanted to get rid of George Brown. He even received a letter of termination from the Council President but later agreed to let him retire.
We reached out to Councilman Griffith to get answers to these questions and a little clarification on the matter but he did not return our request for comment, which leaves us with more questions like where is the transparency we heard about when council members were looking for the votes of the residents. Why did Griffith walk into the clerk’s office call Carter in and just tell her “Today is your last day.”
Even when former Mayor Richard Thomas plead guilty to federal charges and had to relinquish his office, he was afforded the opportunity to come in at night so he could leave with dignity with city employees or the press watching him like a walk of shame. But you have a dedicated employee, who has done her job with dignity and always represented the city with integrity, told she is fired in earshot of her co-workers and two weeks a social media speculation about the council canning the clerk and deputy clerk looming in the air.
City Clerk George Brown will be retiring February 28th and past practices afforded former deputy clerks the opportunity to be promoted including the current council president years ago. But not only wasn’t she afforded the opportunity, but she was dismissed with her coworkers watching.
Its actions and actors like this that are an example of why the city hasn’t been able to move forward in recent years. like everything else in Mount Vernon, there is much more to this story and Black Westchester will stay on top of it and report further developments.