MOUNT VERNON – Today, Corporation Counsel Lawrence A. Porcari, Jr., Esq was arrested and arraigned in White Plains on multiple felony charges related to public corruption, defrauding the government, and offering false instruments for filing in connection with roughly $365,000 in payments to law firms representing Mayor Richard W. Thomas in his criminal case.
Letitia James, New York’s Attorney General, in a release filed after the arraignment, stated, “My office is committed to rooting out corruption and bringing bad actors to justice at every level of government and in every corner of this state.” If convicted, Mr. Porcari faces up to twenty-five years in prison.
This is the latest in a string of Richard Thomas appointees who have run afoul of the law, including Buildings Department Commissioner Dan Jones, Deputy Police Commissioner Fraida Hickson, and Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Spiezio, not to mention other members of Thomas’ inner circle (Roberta James and brothers Preston Thomas, Henry George Thomas, etc.) and Mayor Thomas himself, who faces a criminal trial in July. Today’s arrest is all the more disturbing, given Mr. Porcari’s central and high-profile position within the Thomas administration, the appointee directly tasked with guiding the City’s approach to all legal and administrative matters.
The facts arise out of Mr. Porcari’s allegedly improper use of funds from the Mount Vernon Board of Water Supply, one of the Mayor’s “black box” agencies (like the Urban Renewal Agency and the Mount Vernon Industrial Development Agency, on which Mr. Porcari serves as Vice-Chairman) that operate in the shadows of Mount Vernon city government, entirely under the control and direction of Mayor Thomas. While Mayor Thomas may have avoided an indictment for his involvement in these matters, Mr. Porcari’s arrest certainly calls into question the failure of leadership and “culture of corruption” that has exemplified Mayor Thomas’ administration.
Mr. Porcari, a former attorney for Joseph Spiezio, was represented at his arraignment by criminal defense attorney Nicholas Kaizer. It remains to be seen whether Mount Vernon’s taxpayers will be footing the bill for Mr. Porcari’s defense, whether the indictment will impact Mr. Porcari’s license to practice law, or whether Mr. Porcari will resign from his positions with the Mount Vernon government.
“There will be more indictments,” said City Council President André Wallace. “I’ve been telling people for months that these ‘black box’ agencies are a haven of corruption and abuse of taxpayer resources. It’s time to stop pretending that the buck doesn’t stop with Mayor Thomas, that it’s always someone else’s fault.”
On September 25, 2018, the Council led by Councilman André Wallace called for an investigation after claiming Thomas is using the Water Department as a slush fund operation. At the time both Mayor Thomas And Water Superintendent Arena denied the allegations, but this recent indictment from AG Tish James’ office has to make one wonder was Councilman Wallace on to something when he accused the Thomas Administration of taking water bill revenue and transferring it to accounts of his choosing. Councilman Wallace said during the press conference that taxpayer’s money is going down the drain literally.
“This administration has lost its way, clearly, and they have repeatedly acted like the rules don’t apply to them,” Councilman Wallace shares with Black Westchester after the indictment of Porcari. “That’s $365,000 that belongs to the people of this City, that could have been used to fix the sewers, clean up Memorial Field, maintain the sanitation trucks, and fill the holes on the streets and in the City’s budget. I’m going to go after that money.”
Council Member Marcus A. Griffith added, “The Mayor is in charge of these agencies, and he either knows what went on or he’s willfully blind to what’s going on. Let’s not forget that Mayor Thomas is the sole beneficiary of Mr. Porcari’s alleged scheme. If he thinks the City of Mount Vernon is going to pay Mr. Porcari’s legal bills, he’s nuts.”
Councilwoman Delia M. Farquharson, who is running for Mayor of Mount Vernon as a write-in candidate says she glad to see some accountability and praised New York Attorney General Letitia James and New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s offices for their investigation.
“It is great that the [state] Comptroller’s office and the Attorney General’s office is moving to protect the public trust in Mount Vernon,” Councilwoman Farquharson tells Black Westchester. “We must hold people responsible and accountable for every cent of tax payer’s dollar in Mount Vernon, so we must let the wheels of justice turn. But it is concerning that since 2016, not one penny has been transferred from the Water Department to the General Coffers of the city.”
Porcari was arraigned in Westchester County Court in White Plains, New York, before Judge David Zuckerman on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. Porcari, who lives in Yonkers was ordered to surrender his passport and was released on his own recognizance. The case was adjourned to June 5, 2019. If convicted on the top charge, Porcari faces a maximum penalty of eight and a third to twenty-five years in state prison.
Councilman Wallace sent a letter to Mayor Thomas (see below) calling for the removal of Porcari as Corporation Council, Wednesday afternoon.
Stay tuned to Black Westchester for more on this developing story!