Westchester DA investigates as Mount Vernon mayor, comptroller point fingers over $5.5M shortfall
The Westchester district attorney opened an investigation into Mount Vernon's finances after the mayor alleged fraud in the comptroller's office.
The Mount Vernon City Council unanimously voted Wednesday night to issue subpoenas to the city’s banks to find out how much money they have in their accounts.
Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard tells News 12 the city is trying to close a $5.5 million gap in their 2021 budget, but that Comptroller Deborah Reynolds is withholding the city's bank account information and fund balance, which she says is like a savings account oftentimes used to balance the budget.
While the mayor says there should be $7.9 million in the fund balance, Reynolds told News 12, "There's no way of Shawyn Patterson-Howard putting out a number of a fund balance when the auditors have not actually audited us since 2015. How would she come up with '16, '17 or '18 numbers? I couldn't even do that."
A Westchester municipal official outside of Mount Vernon tells News 12 that Reynolds should definitely be able to see the balance and that a comptroller and officials don't need to be audited to have access to that information.
If the city cannot balance the budget, 60 workers, including firefighters, police officers and Department of Public Works employees, may lose their jobs.
Mount Vernon Fire Department firefighter Anthony Mitchell says this situation is unfair to workers and the community.
"Fires are not the only things we deal with. We go on a lot of medical calls, carbon monoxide calls, stuck occupied elevators, car accidents. It's an abundance of things," he says. "We do the most with the least as it is already. So, to cut more of us, first and foremost you're jeopardizing the guys that will still be working...you're jeopardizing our lives and then you're jeopardizing these citizens."
Last September, the state comptroller completed the first of its audits in Mount Vernon. Auditors found, "The City Council of Mount Vernon did not have adequate financial information for the effective management and fiscal oversight of city operations."
The state comptroller tells News 12 they're auditing Mount Vernon again, but cannot share specific details since it's pending.
A recording of Wednesday's City Council meeting and vote can be found online.
The city will discuss the budget again Thursday evening.