The ongoing battle between Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas and Comptroller Deborah Reynolds has reached new heights.
This week, Reynolds reportedly removed Thomas and Mount Vernon City Council President Lisa Copeland from the city’s bank-account signature card, which the mayor argues is a violation of the City Charter.
Thomas stated that “ if Comptroller Reynolds were to become incapacitated or unable to fulfill her duties, there is no one empowered to officially sign the City's checks.”
On Friday, Thomas went after Reynolds again, this time because the Comptroller’s office was closed.
“Comptroller Deborah Reynolds closed her office today for reasons that were not announced, however, Comptroller Reynolds recently had a death in her family,” he wrote in an email. “That may explain her absence, but not the complete and unannounced closure of the City's Finance Department. Residents attempting to conduct urgent time-sensitive business with the City may incur costs or even losses due to this unexplained closure.”
According to Thomas, the City Charter states that “the Mayor shall, on behalf of and in the name of the City of Mount Vernon, countersign all checks issued by the Comptroller, except checks issued to pay the principal of bonds, interest thereon, coupons thereof, and for compensation of employees of the Department of Public Works, and execute all deeds and contracts made by the City and shall cause to be affixed thereto the City seal.”
“She now has sole control of the City finances without any oversight from the City Council or the Mayor,” Brian Johnson, deputy corporation counsel for the city, stated. “That means she can (do), and she has been doing, anything that she wants. She pays whomever she wants without City Council or mayoral approval, whenever she wants. So, this is a really critical situation right now.”
Thomas said Reynolds' removal of his signature authority is another example of her efforts to obstruct his administration. Reynolds could not be reached for comment on Friday afternoon.
"There's been court order, after court order, after court order instructing the City Council and the Comptroller to stop the obstruction and start serving the people of Mount Vernon,” he added. "In this very case, the City Comptroller unilaterally acted behind my back in defiance of multiple court orders not to obstruct or infringe upon executive authority.”
According to Thomas, in response to Reynolds’ latest action, he is calling for a special meeting with the City Council on Friday and will call on the state Supreme Court “to enforce court decisions ordering the Comptroller to refrain from blocking the Mayor’s access to bank records.”
“Oversight of the Comptroller’s actions have become more urgent since the Mount Vernon school district filed a $31 million lawsuit against the Comptroller, accusing her of withholding taxes she has collected on the district’s behalf,” Thomas added. “In addition to the missing school taxes, Comptroller Reynolds’ nonpayment of bills to City vendors led to a disruption of garbage collection earlier this year, as well as shortages of postage in City Hall, toilet paper in senior centers and plants for spring plantings in public parks.”
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