It appears the 18-month stalemate over the City of Mount Vernon paying Councilman André Wallace for work that had been finished in 2014 at the Griffith and Valentino Memorial Firehouse, Station 3, located at 50 W. Third St., where the Emergency Operations Center is located could be finally coming to an end. A Supreme Court judge has ruled against the Thomas Administration’s counterclaim the city “cannot relitigate on this motion.”
For those keeping score, let’s recap the whole ordeal. The 2016 budget was approved to pay Contractor-turned-Councilman André Wallace’s company Creative Direction Construction & Design, LLC., (CDCD), the more than $187,000, still owed from 2014, when the city ran out of money to pay him, according to former Mayor Ernest D. Davis.
Mayor Richard W. Thomas who had the opportunity to sign the check for Councilman Wallace’s company, CDCD after taking office in January 2016 has opposed any payment. Councilman Wallace said after he did not agree to do what Mayor Thomas wanted, he was told by the by mayor he would never see his money. The mayor has consistently denied that claim and offered for an explanation, the councilman company did not pay prevailing wages and he wanted to fully investigate fully that the councilman, in fact, did what he was supposed to do before turning over any funds for the uncompleted EOC. Shortly after Wallace decided the only way he would get his money was to sue the City of Mount Vernon for the full amount owed of $234,000.
NBC News 4 New York investigated after being called by the mayor and found that the federal government, via state inspectors, did approve the work that’s been done so far. In October 2016 a judge ruled the city had to pay Wallace because “the record does not show that the city has ever claimed defective work.” The Westchester County Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of Mount Vernon City Councilman Andre Wallace in a lawsuit brought against Wallace and his company by Mayor Thomas.
The Thomas’ administration, went on to claim that work at the center was defective and shoddy. In November, state Supreme Court Justice Sam D. Walker rejected the city’s allegations because the city never sent Creative Direction any notices about defective work and he ruled that Mount Vernon must pay the company. To date, Wallace said that, despite the court order, he has not been paid.
Skipping ahead a little, there were few more court cases. The Department of Labor got calls and then investigated Wallace and CDCD as far as paying prevailing wages. An April 27 Notice of Labor Law Inspection Findings from the New York Department of Labor stated that Wallace did not owe workers who claimed that they did not receive prevailing wages.
This should have been the end of the story, but the Thomas Administration went back to court, ordering the Dept. of Labor to turn over records involving their investigation into Wallace and CDCD. The Honorable Joan B. Lefkowitz, J.S.C., ruled against the Thomas Administration, on July 31st, denying their request for Dept. of Labor records. The judge basically said in her ruling that this was just another attempt to not pay Wallace’s company, despite CDCD winning a summary judgment 10 months ago. The judge said ‘Mayor Thomas didn’t have the standing to raise the issue of the plaintiff’s alleged failure to pay prevailing wages and provide certified payroll records is law of the case and cannot relitigate on this motion.’
“The Defendant (City) has failed to demonstrate the records which it seeks in the proposed subpoena are relevant to the remaining issues in this action,” Judge Lefkowitz ruled, (see decision and order below).
Councilman Wallace has gone back to court to file another Summary Judgement an is awaiting the courts decision. Ok so what does it all mean. Had Mayor Thomas signed the check for the little more than $187,000 February 2016 with the money that was approved and sitting in the 2016 budget that would have been the end of the story. Instead, it went to court and now Councilman Wallace is owed over $310,000 plus $53,000 for legal fees if the courts sees fit for him to be reimbursed.
Add that to the over $250,000 in outside counsel fees owed which is still less than the $290,000 plus that it cost for outside counsel to fight the Terrance Horton/Sentinel LED light case, which the city is still appealing, BW was informed this morning. Basically, we are looking at 610,000 for not signing a $187,000 check. That’s an additional $423,000 that the taxpayers will have to pay. Every couple of hundred thousand raise the tax rate. This is just one of the many cases against the city. Win or lose, in the end, taxpayers are the ones who will end up paying the most.
“The city needs to pay it and we need to stop incurring late fees and interest in the meantime,” then Council President Marcus Griffith told NBC News 4 New York back in October 2016, when the judge ruled the city had to pay Wallace.
When we caught up to Councilman Wallace he wasn’t as pleased with the ruling as one would think. He had a look on his face like it was a bitter/sweet win.
“It’s a shame that the big losers here are the taxpayers,” Councilman Wallace tells BW, Thursday morning. Although I am a taxpayer myself, it still hurts to know that this victory comes with the taxpayers footing the bill. Which is not right because the taxpayers are not the ones who would not sign my check. I won but, I too will feel it in my taxes.”
Mayor Richard Thomas did not respond to our request for a comment!