On Monday, July 8, Mount Vernon Mayor Richard W. Thomas shocked the world when he pleaded guilty to fourth-degree attempted grand larceny and second-degree offering a false statement for filing. He will also resign from office as of Monday, Sept. 30.
“The road to redemption is riddled with twists, turns, tight straits, and the reality is 13 million Americans get caught up in the misdemeanor system, where it’s very difficult to defend yourself, especially when you’re poor,” Mayor Thomas said. “Thank you to the people of Mount Vernon for standing up to dirty politics.”
While the New York State Attorney General Letitia ‘Tish’ James and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli took a victory lap in the form or a joint press release, it’s hard not to see how this is actually a victory for Mayor Thomas.
“By using campaign funds to line his own pockets, Thomas broke the law, and violated public trust,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “New Yorkers put their faith in our public servants, and Thomas’ gross violation of that faith constitutes the utmost disloyalty to those he was sworn to serve. My office will continue to root out public corruption, uphold the integrity of public office, and bring bad actors to justice at every level of government throughout New York.”
“Mayor Thomas admitted to knowingly misusing campaign donations to fund his lifestyle instead of funding his campaign,” said State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “Thanks to my partnership with Attorney General Letitia James, his scheme was exposed and he has now admitted his guilt. I will continue to work with Attorney General James to root out public corruption across the state.”
That all sounds good and makes for great soundbites but Mayor Richard Thomas who maintained his innocence up until Monday literally escaped jail time and probation by being allowed to plead to two misdemeanors, with something like six felonies dismissed that would have landed him in jail for several years, was given 82 days to resign instead of immediately. He avoided indictment by the grand jury that indicted Mount Vernon Corporation Counsel Lawrence Porcari for using city water department funds to pay for his criminal-defense legal bills. More importantly, Mayor Thomas lives to run in the next mayoral race if he so chooses. How is this not a victory for the embattled Mayor? If you ask me this whole thing has him coming off like a martyr, which will play well over four years.
On Monday, Mayor Thomas admitted that he stole $12,900 from his campaign committee in 2015 and failed to report the receipt of $4,000 and falsely claimed that a $2,500 payment was a reimbursement. According to the criminal complaint, prior to Thomas filing his 2017 annual statement of financial disclosure with the city, he learned of the existence of the Attorney General’s investigation.
Mount Vernon’s youngest mayor in the history of the city, was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge. He’ll avoid probation if he stays out of trouble and does not seek any public office or public service job during that time. He also has to step down.
“He has until Sept. 30 to resign and I just hope that during that time he’ll focus on the positive things that need to be done,” Democratic mayoral nominee Shawyn Patterson-Howard told CBS News.
Patterson-Howard defeated Mayor Thomas two weeks ago in the Democratic primary for his seat in 2020 and is one step closer to making history as the first elected female to serve as mayor of Mount Vernon. Thomas, whom she’s known since he was 14, was disputing the results.
City Council President Andre Wallace will take over when Thomas steps down fulfilling the remainder of Mayor Thomas’ term which ends on December 31st.
Again while the NYS AG and Comptroller are taking a victory lap, I think they missed their mark for what they claim their mission was and I can not help to see this as a victory to Richard Thomas, not their fight to root out corruption.
“Mount Vernon is open for criminal Business,” Former Corporation Counsel Lauren Raysor shares with Black Westchester. “This is the only City in which the Mayor Pleads guilty, the Corporation Council is under indictment, the building Commissioner was arrested and has open cases in other jurisdictions, the Deputy Police Commissioner was arrested, the Mayor’s brother was arrested and convicted for running guns out of the Fire Department, the Mayor’s other brother was arrested for Domestic Violence initially and a driving infraction, another brother assaults a member of City Council, the sister was arrested for assaulting someone, another employee in the parking bureau (federal crime for stealing for a tummy tuck) was arrested and indicted. Oh I forgot, Misappropriation accusations within the water department resulting higher water rates. Not a suspension yet. And they all keep their jobs and high salaries.”
Where does that leave the city of Mount Vernon and what next in this circus we call Mount Vernon politics, only God knows, but as always Black Westchester will let you know as it unfolds. One thing is for sure this story is far from over and that’s real talk!