Who’s the boss?
The battle between Richard Thomas and Andre Walker over who is the mayor of Mount Vernon hit a head on Friday, July 12, when Thomas was ordered to vacate his office no later than 8 p.m.
Citing Thomas’ misdemeanor criminal convictions, on Wednesday, July 10, the Mount Vernon City Council unanimously voted on legislation to replace Thomas and swore in his successor, Wallace, who was the City Council president, as the interim mayor. Councilwoman Janice Duarte was also named the council president.
The Council quoted a section of the city charter that calls for elected officials to vacate their office if convicted of a crime as the reason for Thomas' ousting. 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.
Thomas has until 8 p.m. on Friday to pick up his belongings from City Hall, officials said.
Those in Thomas’ corner have argued that the resolution passed at the City Council meeting was illegal, and therefore is unenforceable and that the things he was convicted on happened on the campaign trail, not while he was in office.
"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,” Thomas stated. ”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.”
As part of his plea deal, which was reached on Monday, July 8 as his trial was about to begin, Thomas agreed to vacate his office as of Monday, Sept. 30, though the City Council unexpectedly sped up that timeline.
Officials have been adamant that they didn’t oust Thomas, and that he did so to himself when he pleaded guilty.
As of Friday morning, it was unclear who was really in charge at the helm in Mount Vernon. Thomas was not present at City Hall on Thursday, July 11, the day after the resolution was passed, though his office was reportedly buzzing with members of his staff in the building, and two police officers stationed outside the doors.
It is unclear if Wallace is still expected to take office on Friday, though he's stated that he doesn't expect to act in any official capacity before 8 p.m., when Thomas' time is up. When he takes over, Thomas will be in office through the end of the year. Running on the Republican line, he will square off against Democratic primary victor Shawyn Patterson-Howard in November in the general election, and she is expected to win due to the Democratic majority of the city’s registered voters.
“The people of Mount Vernon need and deserve a smooth and orderly leadership transition,” Patterson-Howard said. “They need a path forward that doesn’t derail vital city services with chaos and political infighting.”
This continues to be a developing story. Check Daily Voice for updates
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