Mount Vernon City Council votes to oust Mayor Richard Thomas after guilty plea

MOUNT VERNON, Westchester County (WABC) -- There's a power struggle underway in Mount Vernon, where the mayor agreed to resign earlier this week -- effective September 30 -- after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds.

But in a move Mayor Richard Thomas says is illegal, the City Council passed a resolution Wednesday night to oust him immediately.

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

Thomas was ordered to clear out his office by 8 p.m. Thursday, leaving many wondering who is in charge?

The council claims the guilty plea violates the city charter, which 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, who pleaded guilty Monday to third-degree attempted grand larceny and second-degree offering a false instrument for filing, says he will stay in office until a court tells him otherwise.

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.

Officials say the guilty plea is in satisfaction of an indictment filed in Westchester County that stemmed from a joint investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General and the New York State Office of the Comptroller.

As part of the plea agreement, Thomas admitted that he 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.

Thomas also admitted that he knowingly and falsely filed a 27-day post-general disclosure report with the New York State Board of Elections, where he admitted that he did not disclose that he received a $4,000 payment from his campaign committee.

On that report, Thomas also claimed to have received a $2,500 reimbursement payment from his campaign committee, but he did not expend personal funds warranting such reimbursement.

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