In its democratic political aspect, the three years of the Thomas administration and the actions of the current Mount Vernon City Council has decentralized city and state law and disregarded two principal components of the people: participation and accountability.
Participation is chiefly concerned with increasing the role of citizens in choosing their local leaders and in telling those leaders what to do—in other words, providing inputs into local governance. Accountability constitutes the other side of the process; it is the degree to which local governments have to explain or justify what they have done or failed to do. When government officials disregard the people and accountability of law, chaos always follows.
Mount Vernon has a history of confusion and turmoil when it comes to its city government. Because it’s a predominantly Black run city, it has to be better to overcome age-old biases. The recent unrest by the city council to attempt to strong-arm current Mayor André Wallace out of office after they voted unanimously to put Wallace, shocks the conscience. Former Mayor Richard W. Thomas vacated his office on June 8, 2019. As these antics have put the city on the pages of national news outlets, many onlookers are looking at these shenanigans like a third world government that needs intervention from outside forces like NATO to bring its government back to democracy.
For the last three years, many have attended city council meetings where I have seen many residents make formal complaints about the Thomas Administration. The city council itself to be the so-called checks and balances of the Mayor’s office turned their back on alleged illegal acts of the Thomas Administration.
The city council has had their eyes wide shut to corruption permeating from the Thomas administration; no-show jobs, commissionerships for political cronies and campaign donors resulting in the theft of taxpayer dollars; failure to curb and/or attempt to curb systematic misuse of the city police force for political and personal retaliation; and gross abuse of the city’s police force to target residents and local businesses.
First, let’s be clear, that it is our belief, that part of the problem was the questionable plea deal made by the New York State Attorney General’s Office with former Mayor Thomas. The “waiver” that allows an admitted criminal to stay in office for another 90 days has raised eyebrows to many criminal justice professionals throughout the state of New York.
After former Mayor Thomas pled guilty on July 8, 2019, the City Council invoked Section 25 of the city charter: Penalties for Violation of Duty. The city council voted that by pleading guilty, Thomas vacated his office. The city council voted unanimously per the charter that the Council President, who was André Wallace will be Acting Mayor.
The City Council passes resolutions to stop Thomas’ pay and benefits and for Thomas vacate his office in 24 hours. Thomas refused and came to work. After the 24 hour grace period, the council did nothing. They didn’t change the locks or evict Thomas from an office that the city council unanimously voted that he vacated. Because of the failure of the city council to enforce their resolution, Mount Vernon hit prime time news with the battle of two Mayors.
On July 31, 2019, all parties, Thomas and his lawyer, Wallace and his lawyers, the City Council’s lawyer, the Comptroller’s lawyer all appeared before New York State Supreme Court Justice, Judge Lawrence Ecker. Judge Ecker ruled that when Thomas pled guilty on July 8, 2019, he vacated his office and André Wallace was Mayor.
According to the ruling of Supreme Court Judge, Lawrence Ecker, on July 31, 2019, Judge Ecker ruled that “the agreement could not override provisions in the city charter and the state Public Officers Law that forced Thomas out of office as a result of the conviction.”
Judge Ecker also ruled, in no way, shape or form did Justice Warhit or the Office of the Attorney General condone or agree that there would be a waiver (of the charter or the state law),” Ecker said. “They had no power to do so.”
What raises the eyebrow of question is that all parties’ legal counsel were present for the ruling. But two days later the city council attempts a political assassination of Wallace to vote him out as being Mayor after voting him in on July 10 and fighting for him to be Mayor with the ruling of Judge Ecker on July 31. The council not only disregarded Judge Ecker’s ruling, but they also agreed to accept a resignation letter and pay Mr. Thomas $35,000.
The council also chose to remove André Wallace from Mayor only after he announces an independent audit of many departments because his initial inquiry found thousands of dollars of waste and fraud.
According to Reginald Lafayette, who is the Westchester County Democratic Chairman, the city council cannot change presidents in mid-term. Lafayette also told Black Westchester, “It’s just a grab for power they’ve done, and it’s a bad move,”
The question I have asked the council numerous times is why the city council allowed Richard Thomas to submit a fraudulent document of resignation on August 2, 2019, to receive $35,000 of the taxpayer money after NYS Supreme Court, Judge Ecker ruled on July 31, 2019, that Mr. Thomas vacated his office on July 8, 2019.
Councilwoman Farquharson’s response on Facebook was the council didn’t want to endure any more legal expenses if Thomas takes the city to court for the money he is due on the 90-day waiver. She failed to recognize that Judge Ecker ruled that the Attorney General Office had no power to offer s waiver. Not to mention former city Corporation Counsel, Lawrence Pocari was indicted on stealing $365,000 from the Water Department for Mr. Thomas to pay his legal fees.
The definition of a false document is inventing and inserting documents that appear to be factual. The goal of a false document is to convince an audience that what is being presented is accurate.
By definition, the Mount Vernon City Council has colluded with Mr. Thomas to disregard the court ruling and accept a document that they know was false for what is perceived to be a legal payout.
On August 5, in a letter to Judge Ecker, the law firm for Mount Vernon Comptroller Deborah Reynolds said, there can be no resignation for a forfeited office; there can be no payment for the same.
The question we must ask is why? What are they hiding to by giving a payout to an admitted criminal? Is this hush money? Does Mr. Thomas know something we don’t? What is the point of the city council going to court to put Thomas out, only to turn around and pay him?
On Friday, August 9, 2019, City Council President Lisa Copeland and President Pro-temp, Janice Duarte held an illegal Board of Estimate meeting to approve the fraudulent resignation letter of former Mayor Thomas and his $35,000 payout. The Board of Estimate consists of the Mayor, the City Council President, and the Comptroller. Both Mayor Wallace and Comptroller Reynolds were not present. City Clerk George Brown read in the minutes that Comptroller Reynold disapproved of the meeting, and it was illegal. City Corporation Counsel, Lauren Raysor also sent a letter that the meeting was illegal.
It seems like those who are in charge of the checks and balances are illegally trying to write checks without the balance they are supposed to represent. Democratic principles in Mount Vernon are in shambles. Accountability is an elusive concept that is now just in word only in Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon residents have endured an unresponsive government when it comes to corruption. The question is, what are the people of Mount Vernon going to do? Are they sick and tired of being sick and tired yet? If so will they finally stand up and demand an end to these third world style political shenanigans? Only time will tell!