Mount Vernon — Black Westchester reported back in January that Mayor Thomas was accused of allegedly refusing to sign over 100 checks, he had for over a week, in an alleged retaliation for the Comptroller and the City Council not approving over $750,000 requested to hire additional staff, including $135,000 for a Chief of Staff position. What followed was Council President Marcus Griffith signing all the checks so they could be given out, once the Comptroller realized they were not going to be signed by the mayor.
Mayor Thomas then took it to court and was awarded a TRO – Temporary Restraining Order to prevent the Council President from signing anymore checks. The Comptroller and Council President claimed that Councilman Griffith only signed the checks (including a payment to The School District, The Board of Education, City of Mt. Vernon Employee Health Benefits, checks to City Vendors, the Mount Vernon Police Department, the city’s Con Edison bill, and even a check for the Animal Shelter) so necessary services would not be cut off and vendors would be paid in a timely manner. But the mayor claimed he needed to go through each check thoroughly and investigate the process before putting his John Hancock on the checks.
What ensued was months and months of fighting over every issue between the city council and the mayor’s office. While both parties await a judge’s ruling, BW wanted to follow up and find out has there been anymore issues with checks being signed. What we found is there are several, including the City of Mount Vernon receiving a termination notice for non payment of the Con Edison bill. The mayor assures there will be no interruption, and as of June the City of Mount Vernon will be switching to the New York Power Authority. Con Edison may still terminate service to the City of Mount Vernon before then, since they have not been paid in 2016.
While BW has not been apprised of what the alleged savings will be, the mayor has told BW several times over the past month that the city was paying Con Edison too much and he could get the city a better deal. The comptroller is concerned than even with the switch Con Edison will have to be paid for services the city received from January through the end of May and there appears to be no sign of the mayor signing the check.
In addition to Con Edison, Mayor Thomas has delayed paying the Silverberg Zalantis LLP, law firm who represented the City Council in the current Civil War in City Hall that has spilled over into the courts. In his letter to the Comptroller’s office, dated May 24, 2016, Mayor Richard Thomas admittedly is withholding payment for the law firm that represented the council because he feels payment to his outside counsel was not paid and says, “As such I am withholding signatures on checks for Silverberg Zalantis LLP, until all payments for all attorneys are approved.”
Great chess move on the mayor’s part but also a continuation on the mayor not signing checks that Comptroller Walker first complained about and asked Council President Griffith to sign. According to a letter from the Comptroller to the Mayor, “…you are holding over 250 Accounts Payable checks dating back to May 9, 2016,” and the the mayor’s office is in possession of the Con Edison turn off notices. Several employees and vendors are seeking payment to their invoices and the Comptroller voice on the matter has fallen on deaf ears.
While there has been far too much misinformation or downright lies shared on social media especially on Facebook, BW in following up on the original story thought the public has the right to know exactly whats going on in City Hall. Instead of throwing out baseless allegations as in the case on Facebook we obtained copies of the letters back and forth from the Comptroller and the Mayor’s offices and will let you decide who is right and who is wrong. At the very least you the residents will be more informed on exactly what is going on.
Our city governments needs to begin to work together, the mayor needs to find a more efficient way of handling the signing of checks and the people of Mount Vernon need to finally stand up and demand accountability and transparency for City Hall from the top down. It is May 26th, the 147th day of the year, and 5 months into Mayor Thomas’ 48 month term. BW hopes and prays things get better because one thing is for sure no matter who you support or who side you are on we can not survive another 43 months of this madness! They all need to get it together, but Mayor Thomas, you are the HPIC – Head Politician In Charge, and that’s where you wanted to be, so you need to stand up because the buck stops with you!