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Crisis at City Hall: Who is running the city?Posted: Updated:
It appears that there is a showdown looming at Mount Vernon City Hall as everyone tries to figure out who is the mayor.
Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas showed up for work today and insists that he will be mayor until Sept. 30.
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However, the City Council voted unanimously Wednesday on legislation that removed Thomas from office and immediately swore in Mount Vernon City Council President Andre Wallace as interim mayor. Officials say according to the city charter, they have every right to enforce this after Thomas pleaded guilty in his corruption case earlier this week.
Part of Thomas' plea deal calls for him to stay on as mayor until Sept. 30. Thomas' plea deal came from the state Attorney General's Office, and officials there are putting the decision on Mount Vernon city officials.
In a statement from his spokesman, Thomas says according to the City Charter, a mayor can only be removed from office by the Governor and state Attorney General. He further claims that since the New York Attorney General has already reached a resolution to his legal troubles, the City Council cannot remove him from office, cannot suspend his salary payments or appoint a new Mayor. “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.”
Some city leaders who spoke with News 12 say they're following the council's lead. "He's no longer the mayor, so at this point, we will not receive anything with his signature on it," says City Clerk George Browning.
However, a legal memo from Mount Vernon Corporate Counsel Lawrence Porcari was sent to the city's department heads, saying the council over stepped and the legislation is invalid. That memo reads in part "...the Council cannot order the Mayor out of office, stop his salary or appoint a new Mayor. Until and unless a court of competent jurisdiction says otherwise, the present Mayor will be in office until September 30th, 2019."
Porcari has had his own legal issues following his involvement with Thomas. The city’s top lawyer has pleaded not guilty after being indicted in a $365,000 scheme to use city water department money to fund Thomas' criminal defense legal bills and hire a public relations firm.
Wallace had planned to take office Friday, but there has been no sign of him yet.