Defiant Richard Thomas: 'I am the mayor of Mount Vernon'

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Friday, July 12, 2019
Defiant Richard Thomas: 'I am the mayor of Mount Vernon'
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Marcus Solis has more on the battle brewing in Mount Vernon.

MOUNT VERNON, Westchester County (WABC) -- A defiant Richard Thomas declared Friday, "I am the mayor of Mount Vernon," as the power struggle standoff and City Hall continues.

Thomas agreed earlier this week to resign effective September 30 after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds, but in a move he says is illegal, the City Council passed a resolution Wednesday night to oust him immediately.

"The bottom line is, I am the mayor of Mount Vernon," Thomas said Friday. "And the distractions and the continued antics by the City Council is just that, irresponsible antics and distractions."

They voted to strip him of his salary and proceeded to swear in Council President Andre Wallace -- Thomas' biggest political rival -- as acting mayor. But Thomas and his lawyer claim that vote was in contempt of court, and they have promised a legal challenge.

"The City Council's recent attempt to remove Mayor Richard Thomas from office and designate an acting mayor is contemptuous of the state Supreme Court's roadmap for an orderly transition of power, and it violates past Supreme Court decisions forbidding council members from interfering with the executive branch of government," a Thomas spokesperson said in a statement Friday. "According to the city charter, a mayor can only be removed from office by the governor and state attorney general. The New York Attorney General has already reached a resolution to campaign-finance matters that occurred prior to Mayor Thomas' mayoral term, and Mayor Thomas will leave office in the fall, near the end of his term."

Thomas pleaded guilty Monday to third-degree attempted grand larceny and second-degree offering a false instrument for filing after admitting to knowingly and unlawfully appropriated contributions totaling approximately $13,000 from his campaign committee, the Friends of Richard Thomas, during his 2015 mayoral candidacy, for his own personal use.

He avoided jail time as part of the deal, but he was sentenced to pay a $13,000 fine in addition to a one-year conditional discharge during which time he may not seek or accept any elected or appointed public office or seek or accept any position as a public servant.

The council claims the guilty plea violates the city charter, which they say allows for the immediate removal of a mayor, hence the action taken Wednesday night.

"The mayor removed himself when he pleaded to two misdemeanors in court," Wallace said. "So that is how the mayor, according to the charter had vacated his position. So at this time, the council doesn't have anything more to say, than the charter speaks for itself."

Thomas calls the move a coup, and his attorney says the City Council cannot remove him from office, cannot suspend his salary payments, and cannot appoint a new mayor.

He says Thomas will remain in office until the previously agreed-upon September 30.


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