Political chaos is raging thanks to Democrats in a New York town that currently has two mayors, each claiming to be in charge.
And the dispute over who is actually running things has led to the arrest of the town’s police commissioner by his own officers.
Richard Thomas was the mayor of Mount Vernon until earlier this month when he pleaded guilty to third-degree attempted grand larceny, according to WNBC-TV. In addition to admitting he used campaign contributions for his own personal use, Thomas pleaded guilty to second-degree offering a false statement for filing and agreed to step down in September after he was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge, and to pay a $13,000 fine.
“By using campaign funds to line his own pockets, Mayor Thomas broke the law, and violated public trust,” the attorney general announcing the plea deal said, calling the crimes a “gross violation” and a “disloyalty to those he was sworn to serve.”
Acting Mayor Andre Wallace, Thomas’ biggest political rival, was sworn in just two days later, as the City Council asserted that Thomas’ plea deal left the mayor’s office vacant and it had the legal right to replace him.
But Thomas has refused to leave and maintains that he is still technically in charge, dividing the loyalty of some city officials.
“The bottom line is, I am the mayor of Mount Vernon,” Thomas declared Friday, according to WABC-TV. “And the distractions and the continued antics by the City Council is just that, irresponsible antics and distractions.”
Adding to the confusion, Mount Vernon Police Commissioner Shawn Harris was arrested this week on his first day at work because of the mayoral mayhem. Harris had been removed from office by Thomas back in March, but was reappointed by Harris.
Those who do not recognize the authority of the acting mayor also did not recognize his appointment of Harris to the position. So when he arrived for work, he was promptly arrested for trespassing by his own officers under the direction of Thomas.
After nine hours in jail, Harris told WNBC-TV that it had been the “worst day of my life.”
“It’s been an embarrassment for me, and my family and the great city of Mount Vernon,” he added after being released.
The district attorney has declined to prosecute the case.
“The focus is to refocus and to get this right, and to make sure that we do the things that the people are expecting us to do,” Wallace said, according to WABC-TV. “Because right now, all of this is not looking good for the city of Mount Vernon. It is a bad look for us, and it can’t continue this way. You know, it’s embarrassing.”
Thomas and his attorney have promised a fight, asserting that despite what the City Council claims about the city’s charter being violated, it does not have the authority to strip him of his salary and remove him from office while appointing someone else.
The City Council voted Tuesday to hire a law firm to wade through the political mess.