What to Know
- Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges on Monday and will resign
- Thomas was first charged with corruption in early 2018
- The outspoken Thomas had denied the charges against him and mounted a spirited defense
The mayor of a city in upstate New York pleaded guilty Monday morning to multiple misdemeanors and will resign from office, a deal struck just as jury selection was about to begin in his corruption trial.
Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas pleaded guilty to charges of attempted grand larceny and offering a false instrument for filing in connection with stealing campaign funds and lying about those funds on a disclosure to the State Board of Elections, prosecutors announced Monday.
Thomas was sentenced to pay a $13,000 fine in addition to a one-year conditional discharge during which time Thomas may not seek or accept any elected or appointed public office or seek or accept any position as a public servant, Attorney General Letitia James said. Thomas will also resign and leave office effective Sept. 30, 2019.
As part of the plea agreement, Thomas admitted that he knowingly and unlawfully appropriated contributions of about $13,000 from his campaign committee, the Friends of Richard Thomas, during his 2015 mayoral candidacy, for his own personal use, according to prosecutors.
Thomas also admitted that he falsely filed a 27 Day Post-General Disclosure report with the New York State Board of Elections, where he admitted that he did not disclose that he received a $4,000 payment from his campaign committee, prosecutors say, adding that on that report, he also claimed to have received a $2,500 reimbursement payment from his campaign committee, but he did not expend personal funds warranting such reimbursement.
Thomas was first arraigned in March 2018, accused of stealing about $12,900 from his 2015 campaign committee for his personal use.
“Mayor Thomas used his campaign and inaugural accounts as personal piggybanks – part of a long-running scheme that began during his 2015 campaign and continued throughout his time in office,” then-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman alleged in a statement at the time, saying Thomas used the funds to pay for cars, dinners and a Chanel purse.
Thomas mounted a vigorous defense of the charges, at least initially.
"The allegations are not true. I want to reassure the people of Mount Vernon that this has nothing to do with my service in office as it relates to the campaign," Thomas said in a press conference outside Mount Vernon City Court shortly after his arraignment last year.
In 2017, Thomas made headlines by feuding with his city comptroller, alleging she mismanaged city funds that lead to bounced checks for city employees.
He also made headlines in 2016 when he had a feud with a councilman over who was responsible for the skyrocketing cost of an emergency operations center that was taking longer than expected to retrofit and complete.
“By using campaign funds to line his own pockets, Thomas broke the law, and violated public trust,” James said in a statement. "New Yorkers put their faith in our public servants, and Thomas’ gross violation of that faith constitutes the utmost disloyalty to those he was sworn to serve.”