MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The political dysfunction in Mount Vernon is reaching a new peak.
Now residents are wondering who is their actual mayor?
“I look at City Hall, and I hate to say it, a circus! This is the big tent, the mayor the ring master and the city council the clowns,” resident Dolores Mack said.
The mayor elected in 2015 – Richard Thomas – pleaded guilty on Monday to campaign finance misdemeanors. Thomas took the plea to avoid facing felony charges and jail time.
The five members of city council say under the city charter, the plea deal means he’s forfeited office. They voted Wednesday night to give Thomas 24 hours to vacate his position.
“The mayor removed himself when he pleaded to two misdemeanors in court. So that is how the mayor, according to the charter, had vacated his position,” acting Mayor Andre Wallace explained.
But Thomas claims his plea deal allows him to remain mayor until Sept. 30 and he plans to do so.
Complicating Thomas’s effort to remain as mayor is the position he took four years ago.
When the previous mayor, Ernie Davis, pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges, Thomas wrote to the attorney general in 2015, insisting that the city charter made it clear Davis had to leave.
It’s a hypocritical 180-degree turn for Thomas, who now finds himself in the same exact political embarrassment.
“Sorta like deja vu!” another Mount Vernon resident said.
“Next step is we’re gonna move forward to get the work and the business of the people done. That’s all we’re gonna say at this time,” acting-Mayor Wallace said.
Democracy can be messy, especially in Mount Vernon, where it may take a judge to decide who is actually in charge.
Mount Vernon elects a new mayor on Nov. 5.