As the city teeters on the brink, chaos continues to reign supreme at Mount Vernon City Hall, with the latest twist being the newly appointed police commissioner reportedly being taken into custody.
On Monday, July 15, former police commissioner Shawn Harris was reappointed as the Commissioner of Public Safety in charge of the Mount Vernon Police Department by acting Mayor Andre Wallace.
However, the following day, Harris was taken into police custody at Mount Vernon Police Headquarters, according to a lohud report. It is unclear if Harris has been formally arrested or charged.
Wallace and Mayor Richard Thomas have been at odds for more than a week, and the two jostle for the city’s top job.
On Monday, July 8, Thomas pleaded guilty to fourth-degree attempted grand larceny and second-degree offering a false statement for filing. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to resign from office as of Monday, Sept. 30.
Two days later, on Wednesday, July 10, the Mount Vernon City Council unanimously voted on legislation to remove Thomas from office immediately, giving him 24 hours to vacate City Hall. City Council President Andre Wallace was named the interim mayor, while Councilwoman Janice Duarte became the council president.
However, it has remained unclear to city employees and residents alike who is actually in charge of Mount Vernon as the two continue to debate. Thomas has steadfastly insisted he remains the mayor, while Wallace unofficially took over as acting mayor on Friday, July 12.
Harris was the deputy commissioner for parking when Thomas appointed him acting police commissioner in the spring of 2016. He was then named commissioner in January 2018.
In March, Thomas unexpectedly ousted Harris from his position, announcing that he had been “released” as of March 13. He was replaced temporarily by Mount Vernon Lt. Robert Scott. There were no details released about why Harris was let go.
“Mr. Harris has previously served the City of Mount Vernon in this capacity, and his familiarity with the Department’s operations and administration uniquely positions him to be successful on Day 1,” Wallace said in a statement this week. “I have every confidence that Mr. Harris is a dedicated and professional public servant who will, once again, serve our city with distinction.”
The City Council has stood firm that Wallace is the acting mayor, though the city’s corporation counsels say that Thomas will remain in charge until his resignation takes effect in September.
“I represent the City of Mount Vernon. I represent the mayor, the City Council and all the other city entities,” Deputy Corporation Counsel Brian Johnson said. “It is our position that it is very clear that Mayor Richard Thomas is still the mayor. The City Council’s powers are legislative only. I understand making the arguments and about the charters, but it’s a failing argument.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Thomas said, ”the City Council's recent attempt to remove Mayor Richard Thomas from office and designate an acting mayor is contemptuous of the state Supreme Court's roadmap for an orderly transition of power, and it violates past Supreme Court decisions forbidding council members from interfering with the executive branch of government.
Thomas, calling the move a coup d’etat, has vowed to fight, stating that he is going to keep heading to City Hall as if each day is a regular workday.
"The City Council’s illegal coup d’etat confirms there is an organized effort to undermine democracy in Mount Vernon and hide the truth about the 'undocumented' $95 million in loans by past administrations,” he said in a statement. ”These are the same people that won’t vote for garbage trucks nor toilet paper for seniors, yet they illegally anoint themselves as mayor. Get ready for another waste of time and money on unnecessary litigation.
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