Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard is calling on the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office to investigate the city’s finances as it faces a potential budget crunch due to uncooperative officials.
Patterson-Howard issued a public letter to District Attorney Miriam Rocah asking for assistance as Mount Vernon faces potential furloughs or layoffs of essential employees if they are forced to slash the budget.
Potential cuts would include public safety, civil service, and public works employees.
According to Patterson-Howard, the city has been struggling to get information from the Comptroller’s Office, which is delaying their ability to craft a 2021 spending plan.
“For the last year we’ve documented and highlighted this issue and called on our Comptroller to provide financial information that is mandated by the charter,” the mayor said. “To this end, the Comptroller has been unwilling to come to the table and present documentation to help with the completion of the 2021 budget.”
Patterson-Howard said that Comptroller Deborah Reynolds - who has had contentious relationships with previous mayoral administrations - is hiding where the city’s money is being held through 39 different bank accounts that she “refuses to shed light on,” only allowing access to three accounts linked to Chase Bank.
The mayor called the actions “a direct threat to the public safety of our community.”
Reynolds is also accused of spending unauthorized money on her personal attorneys without input from the Board of Estimate and City Council. Patterson-Howard said that Reynolds has allegedly installed illegal firewalls to block outside access to the city’s internal records using MUNIS, and she has entered into illegal contracts with vendors, all outside the purview of governmental oversight.
“Furthermore, the Comptroller has shown her interference to provide this access to any members of the public and continues to obstruct the day to day governance of our city,” Patterson-Howard said.
“I am asking for the Westchester County District Attorney’s office to utilize the Public Integrity Bureau to investigate the City of Mount Vernon’s finances and to prosecute to the full extent of the law any crimes committed by the Comptroller or employees of the city in regards to corruption, fraud or any other crimes.”
Patterson-Howard said that Reynolds has violated laws that include:
- Official misconduct;
- First-degree obstructing governmental administration;
- Second-degree obstructing governmental administration;
- Defrauding the government.
Outside of the District Attorney’s Office, Patterson-Howard said she has also reached out to the New York State Comptroller’s Office in an attempt to have an Emergency Financial Control Board put in place to review Mount Vernon’s finances.
“While this restricts Mount Vernon’s fiscal sovereignty, we are in a dire situation that requires immediate intervention,” she said. “We’ve been raising the awareness of this potential situation over the last few months through press conferences and email correspondence to our elected officials.”
In her plea to Rocah’s office, Patterson-Howard said that Mount Vernon has “reached the financial cliff.”
“Without a full investigation into the obstruction and negligent actions of the Comptroller, Mount Vernon will face some difficult decisions in our immediate and near future that will have irreparable harm on our public health and safety,” she concluded. “I know you wish to hold our elected and public officials accountable and as Mayor, I want to do what is best for Mount Vernon.”
Rocah responded publicly, saying that: “These allegations are serious and significant and we will review them carefully and with the urgency they deserve. Public officials should be held to the highest ethical and legal standards and any alleged abuse of the public trust is a top priority for this office.”
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