The chaos at Mount Vernon City Hall may be coming to a resolution as the battle over the mayor's chair has hit a new chapter.
Friday, July 19 was payday for city employees, though only one of the two men claiming to be mayor received a full paycheck, with acting Mayor Andre Wallace earning a full check, while Mayor Richard Thomas was reportedly paid for only a few days as he continues questioning his ousting.
On Monday, July 8, Mount Vernon Mayor Richard 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.
Citing a section of the city council that calls for elected officials to vacate their office if convicted of a crime, the council also passed resolutions authorizing the city comptroller to stop paying Thomas’ salary, and he was ordered to turn over any city property that he possesses.
City Comptroller Deborah Reynolds, who has been at odds with Thomas since taking office in January last year, said that Thomas’ time in office is over, and that this was the last paycheck he will receive for his role in that position.
As part of the political jostling, Wallace has suspended two of Thomas’ most staunch allies in Corporation Counsel Lawrence Porcari and HR Commissioner Nina Crispino earlier this week. Lou Migliore, who makes an $80,000 salary as a special advisor to Thomas, also reportedly had a paycheck withheld amid the confusion.
Neither side has backed down, with Wallace assuming more and more mayoral responsibilities as of Friday, July 19, while Thomas steadfastly refuses the backdown and vowed to fight his ousting. The situation is expected to likely head to court as the two sides continue butting heads.
“I am the mayor until I’m not,” Thomas said. “I’m going to keep doing the people’s business. To the City Council, stop the nonsense. I’m going to get back to work doing the people’s business and I hope you do too.”
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.
”Running on the Republican line, Wallace will square off against Democratic primary victor Shawyn Patterson-Howard in November, who is expected to win due to the Democratic majority of the city’s registered voters.
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