What to Know
- A three-week standoff that left Mount Vernon with two men claiming to be mayor has been resolved
- A judge ruled that the former mayor’s guilty plea to stealing campaign funds meant he had forfeited his office
- Former Mount Vernon mayor Richard Thomas was seen cleaning out his City Hall office Wednesday night, and Andre Wallace will take over
A three-week standoff that left a suburban New York community with two men claiming to be mayor has been resolved after a judge ruled that the former mayor’s guilty plea to stealing campaign funds meant he had forfeited his office.
Former Mount Vernon mayor Richard Thomas was seen cleaning out his City Hall office Wednesday night, the Journal News reports. The newspaper said a U-Haul truck delivered several items to Thomas’ house.
State Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Ecker ruled earlier Wednesday that Thomas had vacated his office by pleading guilty July 8 to misusing 2015 campaign funds.
Mount Vernon’s city council appointed its president, Andre Wallace, as acting mayor on July 11, but Thomas initially argued that his plea agreement had given him until Sept. 30 to step down.
The weeks-long political mess got even stranger on July 16, when the town's newly appointed police commissioner was arrested just hours after being appointed to the role by the acting mayor whose authority was not recognized by some city officials.
Mount Vernon Police Commissioner Shawn Harris spent most of his first day on the job in jail after being arrested for trespassing by the same officers he was hired to lead after trying to take up his appointed post. He was released later in the day, calling it "the worst day of (his) life."
"It's been an embarassment for me, and my family and the great city of Mount Vernon," Harris said shortly after being released. The DA's office said it would not pursue charges.
His arrest capped a period of political drama in a city notorious for it. Harris was ousted from the police department by then-Mayor Thomas in March, but re-appointed to the role by Acting Mayor Wallace on July 15, according to a LoHud.com report.
On July 8, Thomas pleaded guilty to charges of attempted grand larceny and offering a false instrument for filing. As part of the agreement, Thomas admitted that he knowingly and unlawfully appropriated contributions from his campaign committee for his own personal use, according to prosecutors.
Thomas was sentenced to pay a $13,000 fine in addition to a one-year conditional discharge. He also agreed to resign and leave office effective Sept. 30.
But Mount Vernon's city council ruled the office was vacant immediately because of Thomas's plea, and swore in Wallace as mayor on July 10.