In the ongoing saga around what happened last summer at Memorial Field when Mayor Thomas demolished the Kela Tennis Center bubble in the middle of the night, it prompted a number of lawsuits
Now, another judge has weighed in, this time in favor of Comptroller Reynolds against Figueroa & Sons Contracting, Inc., hired by Mayor Thomas to demolish the tennis bubble. In a sweeping opinion, State Supreme Court Judge Sam D. Walker denied the contractor’s motion for summary judgment seeking immediate payment from the City of Mount Vernon on the basis of an “emergency” contract made with Mayor Thomas. In his decision, Friday, March 22nd, Judge Walker completely overruled Mayor Thomas’ approach of declaring so-called emergencies to allow him to hire contractors without the approval of the City Council or the Board of Estimate & Contracts (BOE). Mayor Thomas has done this on numerous occasions in the past (as detailed in the supporting affidavit in the Memorial Field case), and Judge Walker’s decision leaves no doubt that Mayor Thomas’ approach was improper and a violation of Mount Vernon’s City Charter.
Judge Walker’s decision highlights a number of important points which Comptroller Reynolds and Council President Wallace have been raising for months. First, the power to contract in the City Charter is vested ONLY in the BOE – the Mayor has no authority to enter into a contract on his own. Second, in an emergency, competitive bidding may be suspended for contracts, but the emergency MUST be approved by the City Council and the BOE, of which the Mayor is just one member. Finally, in order to pay vendors, the Mayor must submit appropriate vouchers to the Comptroller with proper budget account codes which must be verified by the Comptroller as having sufficient funds available for payment, something the Mayor has stubbornly refused to do.
As Judge Walker stated, “the City is not just the Mayor” and the Charter “does not authorize the Mayor to make contracts on behalf of the City.” That power is vested solely in the BOE. In this case, the Court held that, without appropriate approval by the City Council and BOE, the contract “must be rendered unenforceable as against the City of Mount Vernon.”
“With this decision in hand, the City Council will now look to challenge all similar contracts signed without proper approval or authority by Mayor Thomas, including, as necessary, recouping any money that have been wrongfully paid out by the Thomas administration,” Council President Wallace informs Black Westchester.
“Following the process set forth in the City Charter is not optional and not up for interpretation,” Wallace continues. “Mayor Thomas is not above that process, and Comptroller Reynolds should be commended for her efforts in seeking to expose this insidious form of corruption by the Thomas administration. I have been and will continue to fight for the people of Mount Vernon against these illegal maneuvers. Fighting for what’s right isn’t always the most popular thing to do, but it has to be done.”
Stay tuned to Black Westchester for more on this developing story.