News Ticker

State Officials Failed to Protect the People of Mount Vernon From Corrupt, Oppressive Government​

On Wednesday, State Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Ecker ruled that former Mayor Thomas, vacated his mayoral seat when he pled guilty to misdemeanors for misusing campaign money in 2015. 

When Mr. Thomas pleaded guilty, according to the city charter, his position was vacated. The City Council acted accordingly and voted in then-City Council President André Wallace to be Mayor of the city of Mount Vernon for the remaining of Mr. Thomas term. 

The question we have to ask is why the Attorney General’s Office would make a plea deal that will violate state law and the Mount Vernon City Charter?  Why would the Attorney Generals Officer agree to a plea agreement that was less than their original plea agreement that the defendant Mr. Thomas turned down? 

Sadly, to say, it took a Judge Ecker to clear up this debacle of state oversight of political corruption. Judge Ecker said, “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.”

“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.”

I get it; everyone wants this to go away. Unfortunately for the people of Mount Vernon, these same elected officials failed to realize that January 1, 2020, will change who’s Mayor, but January 1, 2020,  will never reverse the lasting physiological and mental effects this oppressive administration of many of the residents Mount Vernon. Local, county, state elected officials, and city leaders were complicit in silence for the last three years. 

The continued antics of public officials have put Mount Vernon and the State of New York on a national spotlight on the failed ethical and legal accountability of elected officials from county and state and total confusion on how to end the political madness. 

Many criminal justice professionals have questioned the decision of the New York State Attorney General’s Office even to conceive a plea deal that will allow an admitted criminal to stay in their elected position.

 It is no secret that our jails are filled with Black youth that has been vigorously prosecuted and convicted on much less than what the Attorney General’s office indicted the former mayor, Richard Thomas. However, this is politics at its best. 

Regardless of the offense to the people, this elite social club will say one thing about the accountability of other elected officials to get elected but does another when the opportunity arises to make their word bond.

The result of failure for political oversight was more chaos, a plea deal that violates the city charter and a city council at wits to protect the laws of the city, clean up the remaining corruption in an attempt to have a normally functioning government and to protect its finances.

The agreed plea deal of the Attorney General’s Office has disregarded the sacrifices of residents of Mount Vernon who have suffered documented harassment, retaliation suspension, dismissals, personal threats to their lives and family safety; to see a two-and-a-half-year investigation, human resources, tax dollars pleaded away with a slap on the wrist.

The question remains, even with a so-called progressive government; who do black people look to for justice? Many Mount Vernon residents turned to the Westchester County District Attorney and the New York State Attorney General’s office only to be politically pacified.

So, what is the point for any elected official in New York State to stand up against corruption, work with the Attorney General’s Office to get the city top lawyer indicted, put their lives and families living on the line for protecting the city; and this is the thanks they will get? 

Makes us question what the real ethic values at the state level are when they refuse to denounce and hold accountable ethics and moral violations of their own on a city level.

The recent unjust arrest of duly sworn Police Commissioner, while reporting to work should shock the conscious of residents and elected officials throughout the state of New York.

It was a smart move by the Westchester District Attorney’s office not to peruse criminal charges against Commissioner Harris who was duly sworn in as Commissioner. The District Attorney’s Office has failed for three years to bring any charges against former Mount Vernon Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Spiezio, who had multiple complaints and reports directly to the District Attorneys and Attorney General’s Office of alleged threatening elected officials and residents; police reports are alleged to be altered, and homicide investigations obstructed. To entertain any criminal charges against Harris would be unlawful in itself after not bringing charges against Spiezio.

Governor Cuomo and other state Democrats were quick to denounce other elected officials like Former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who was only accused of a crime but have remained silent on a Mayor that had pleaded guilty to a crime.  Why should Mount Vernon be any different? Why was Governor Cuomo so silent?

When questioned about Thomas situation, the Governor had the unmitigated gall to say he was unfamiliar with the issues in Mount Vernon. Does the Governor think the readers of these news outlets are that stupid? He lives in Chappaqua, the last time I checked, it is in Westchester. To add injury to the insult of the people of Mount Vernon, it is on record of the Mount Vernon City Councilwoman Lisa Copeland said she hand-delivered a letter to his office almost two years ago.  

Black people have been disrespected the political process so much that we cannot even see the bigger picture when we are disrespected. We cannot or refuse to see when the levels of government failed. We cannot continue to accept symbolism politics over the substance of governance. 

We have arrived at a point where the challenges against public corruption  — harassment, retaliation, and abuse of elected office —require changes not only to city policy but also proper oversight to basic public management systems from state authorities. In this situation, Mount Vernon needed more and Black People needed respect.

As this era of politics ends in Mount Vernon, it sheds light to a bigger picture. Black people in Westchester need more than a Black politician or any politician that tickles our fancy.

New York Democrats should be embarrassed at what happened in Mount Vernon! You can not point a finger at Republicans that won’t hold Trump accountable when you have failed and were silent on accountability of your own democratic elected Mayor of the eighth-largest city in the state.  

The people are in need of elected officials that will speak truth to power, pick the people over a political party and stand in the gab against corrupt government officials, even if it’s in their party. 

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About Damon K. Jones (214 Articles)
Damon K. Jones is an Activist, Author, and Publisher of Black Westchester Magazine, a Black-owned and operated newspaper based in Westchester County, New York. Mr. Jones is a Holistic Health Practitioner, First Aid in Mental Health Practioner, Diet, and Nutrition Advisor, and Vegan, Vegetarian Nutrition Life Coach. Mr. Jones is a 31 year Law Enforcement Practioner, New York Representative of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. Mr. Jones has been a guest commentator on New York radio stations WBLS (107.5 FM), WLIB (1190 am), WRKS (98.7 FM), WBAI (99.5 FM), and Westchester's WVOX (1460 am). Mr. Jones has appeared on local television broadcasts, including Westchester News 12 “News Makers” and Public Television “Winbrook Pride. You can now hear Damon every Wednesday at 830 AM on WFAS 1230 AM, Morning with Bob Marone Show.
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