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City Council 'Robbing Peter To Pay Paul,' Mount Vernon Mayor Says

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas
Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas Photo Credit: File

Internal strife, bickering and finger-pointing inside Mount Vernon City Hall is back, with the mayor now vetoing a City Council transfer of funds, claiming that they are “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas announced this week that he vetoed a City Council resolution that sought to transfer funds within the Department of Public Works to free up grant-matching funds to match EPA compliance.

The city is facing millions of dollars in fines from the Department of Justice and EPA for its failing sewer system and other violations. The latest back-and-forth between the mayor and the City Council continues a monthlong battle over Mount Vernon’s budget that included Thomas vetoing the budget, just to have it ultimately approved by the Council.

“The move simply ‘robs Peter to pay Paul,’” Thomas wrote in his latest letter to the City Council this week. “It is beyond comprehension as to why you continue to willfully reject the budget olive branch that has been repeatedly extended for the past few years and specifically as it relates to the current budget since September 2018.”

According to Thomas, the Council proposed taking funds from various lines in Public Works - approximately $400,000 - to pay for the city to put up matching funds that have reportedly been available for several years.

The latest bit of consternation between Thomas and elected officials in Mount Vernon comes on the heels of a bitter battle with Comptroller Deborah Reynolds, DPW complaints and the back-and-forth over the budget. He will face a fierce competition for his mayoral seat when his term concludes later this year.

“By simply changing the assumptions within the 1.93 percent tax rate will allow the city to better comply with all of our environmental mandates including the cleanup of Memorial Field, DPW Yard, and fixing broken sewers,” Thomas wrote. “My repeated, and at times, blunt warnings on the consequences of environmental defiance have been met with more bitter and willful defiance by the City Council. Your deliberate actions have literally caused the Department of Justice to sue the City of Mount Vernon seeking virtually $1 billion in penalties.”

This is a developing story. Check back to Daily Voice for updates.

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