WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A local mayor facing a litany of corruption charges issued a guilty plea on Monday.
CBS2’s Tara Jakeway tried to figure out what it all means for the future of a Westchester County city.
Embattled Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas left Westchester County Court after pleading guilty to the misuse of his campaign funds.
Jury selection was set to begin Monday for his trial. Instead, he took a plea deal, copping to two misdemeanor counts and avoiding a felony charge which would carry jail time. He’ll pay back the nearly $13,000 he admitted to taking from his 2015 campaign funds.
Court documents show Thomas used some of that money towards a family trip to Mexico.
His expenses included:
* $118 on a meal at JFK Airport
* $114 on a meal at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company at Mexico City Airport
* $2,000 to buy a Chanel purse and $6,500 went towards his car payments and personal loans
Thomas was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge. He’ll avoid probation if he stays out of trouble and does not seek any public office or public service job during that time. He also has to step down.
“He has until Sept. 30 to resign and I just hope that during that time he’ll focus on the positive things that need to be done,” Democratic mayoral nominee Shawyn Patterson-Howard said.
Patterson-Howard defeated Mayor Thomas two weeks ago in the Democratic primary for his seat in 2020. Thomas, whom she’s known since he was 14, was disputing the results.
“I’m saddened. I mean, there’s no jail time that is tied to this and so, you know, he is able to go home at the end of the day to his family,” Patterson-Howard said.
All was quiet Monday at Mount Vernon City Hall, where inside both the city council and the mayor’s office there was no comment. But outside, city residents had plenty to say.
“I’m not really surprised to be quite honest. A lot of shady things have been happening in this town,” Molly Steier said.
Steier was referring to the very public ongoing feud between Mayor Thomas and the city council.
“I’m really sorry to hear that he’s guilty because he’s a young man, a young black man, up-and-coming, and it’s an embarrassment,” Denise Harris said.
In 2015, Thomas was elected as the youngest serving mayor in the City of Mount Vernon. In 2016, he encouraged the public to post social media photos of potholes in Mount Vernon streets in an effort to document areas of greatest need.
City Council President Andre Wallace will take over when Thomas steps down until a new mayor is elected on Nov. 3.