‘An embarrassment’: Arrested police appointee fumes as Mt. Vernon chaos continuesPosted: Updated:
Questions about who is mayor – and police commissioner – have many Mount Vernon residents and politicians searching for answers.
The chaos that has marred Mount Vernon politics for years reached new heights on Tuesday after the police commissioner appointed Monday by the apparent new mayor of Mount Vernon was arrested for trespassing Tuesday, and then set free about nine hours later.
The city's former police commissioner, Shawn Harris, was sworn in to his old job at the direction of acting Mayor Andre Wallace. Harris was fired in March by Mayor Richard Thomas after he abruptly terminated the deputy police commissioner, who was a close ally of Thomas.
The controversial appointment came less than a week after the City Council voted to oust Thomas from office and swear in Wallace. Shawn Harris says he came to work Tuesday to start work as police commissioner when he was arrested for felony trespassing.
Harris got some welcome news at the end of the day when district attorney’s office ordered his release from custody. Harris told News 12 that during the nine hours he was in jail, he had nothing to eat or drink. He had been arrested for felony trespassing because he was in possession of a firearm, which is a Class D felony. Harris said he was just going to work.
He called Tuesday the worst day of his life.
"It's been an embarrassment for me, and my family and the great city of Mount Vernon and its citizens who I have served my entire adult life, serving this city and serving my country, protecting the rights of the citizens of this city and this country. I'm totally embarrassed - and I'm pissed, with two S's,” said Harris.
Harris' attorney says he has some documents to review. It is unclear if Harris is going to attempt to go to work Wednesday.
According to the mayor's office, Harris was given a desk appearance ticket and is due back in court on Thursday. It's unclear if he will be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor.
"He tried to storm the police department and got a rude awakening," said Thomas. "The reality is that he trespassed, and he should not have done that. He was warned."
This episode is the latest in the now two-week saga over who has control of City Hall - Thomas or Wallace?
"I'm mayor until I’m not," said Thomas. "And that's not going to change - unless something else happens."
Thomas insists his plea deal with the attorney general keeps him in office until the end of September, and says the effort to oust him is being driven by dirty politics. The City Council says when Thomas pleaded guilty to two campaign finance misdemeanors last week, the city charter mandated he vacate his position.
The council then appointed Wallace, but on Tuesday the council disagreed with his decision to appoint Harris to the job.
"I'm not going to go back and forth my with colleagues or anybody else. I thought that was the right decision to make at the time. I'm going to stand by that position," says Wallace.
Tuesday night, the city Council voted to retain an attorney in dealing with this power struggle with Thomas.