Mount Vernon deals with political aftershocks of mayor’s plea deal

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Mount Vernon is dealing with the political aftershocks of Mayor Richard Thomas’ decision to accept a plea deal in the corruption case against him as jury selection was set to begin Monday.

 As part of the deal, Thomas pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors for misusing thousands of dollars in campaign funds and misreporting it. The deal also requires that he resign on Sept. 30 and pay a $13,000 fine. He has also agreed not to run for public office for a year.

MORE: What’s next for Mount Vernon?

MORE: Mount Vernon mayor says primary election was rigged, files lawsuit

The first-term mayor was facing six felony charges stemming from his 2015 campaign that could have landed him behind bars for years. He was arrested in March 2018 on charges he used his campaign and inaugural account funds for personal use. He was accused of using thousands of dollars in campaign funds to pay rent and take vacations.

The deal is much more lenient than the two previous offers Thomas rejected, since this plea agreement keeps him out of prison. He says he took the deal with family in mind.

"I want to make it clear, had I not had children, had I not had a real future to lose, I would've loved my day in court, a fair day in court," he says.

His lawyers wouldn't say how they got the deal. The attorney general's office was also tightlipped. Thomas says he believes divine intervention played a part.

"This outcome today is something that God ordained, and I'm going to go with that," he says.

Meanwhile, the stunning news of Thomas's plea deal reverberated around Mount Vernon.

With the mayor agreeing to step down on Sept. 30, current City Council President Andre Wallace will become the acting mayor.

Wallace lost his bid to become the Democratic mayoral nominee two weeks ago in the primary election. Despite his defeat, Wallace is still running for mayor on the Republican ticket.

Former Planning Commissioner Shawyn Patterson-Howard appears to be the winner in that race, beating Mayor Thomas by just over 200 votes.

Thomas was challenging the results, but after the plea deal, he went to the Board of Elections and conceded the race.

Shawyn Patterson-Howard spoke to News 12 shortly after the plea deal was announced.

"Yes, we understand that the city council president will become the acting mayor. I am looking forward to working with whomever is in that office, but we still have a general election in November."

Wallace says this is not a proud day for Mount Vernon, and is calling for Thomas to step down now. He released a statement that said in part, "Mayor Thomas has admitted to engaging in serious crimes and has agreed to forfeit his office. For that reason alone, he should resign immediately. The city charter compels it. Dragging this drama out for another 90 days is going to help no one. Our citizens deserve better."

Westchester County Executive George Latimer believes this is not the end of Thomas' political career. "It's a sad ending to this chapter in his life but Rich is a young man he can come back from this. He can have a government career, if not,  have a productive career going forward."

The general election is set to take place in Nov. 3, and the winner will be inaugurated on Jan. 1, 2020.




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