I am looking forward to speaking to the people of Mount Vernon, tonight at 7 p.m.
Posted by Mayor Richard Thomas on Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Last Monday, sitting Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas was arrested and charged with third-degree grand larceny. The charges allege that Thomas used campaign funds to pay for things such as his rent, car payments, dinner for his family while on vacation in Mexico, and even a $2,000 handbag. Thomas has denied any wrongdoing, but the case has the potential to be a historic turning point, both for City Hall and election law in New York.
The ten-page report filed by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office alleges that Thomas redirected nearly $45,000 in inauguration committee funds. Shockingly, this is not technically illegal due to the complexities of New York State Law. Unfortunately for Thomas, the report also alleges that he stole some $12,000 from his campaign fund, which is prohibited under law. In both cases, Thomas is accused of having lied about both in his public filings, misdemeanor charges.
What Does Thomas Say?
Mayor Thomas stresses that the accusations both are untrue and are entirely unrelated to his duties and performance in office. That office released a statement several hours after Thomas’ arrest asserting that all expenditures were “legal and justified, and made on advice of counsel as compensation for his own campaign duties.”
“I have no doubt that we will be able to prove our full compliance with the letter, ethics, and spirit of the law,” Thomas says.
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What Does the Attorney General Say?
New York Attorney General Schneiderman stated at a press conference, “Mayor Thomas treated these accounts as slush funds to pay off cars, dinners, and even a Chanel purse, and then lied about it in his filings. Public corruption strikes at the very heart of our democracy, and we’re committed to continuing to root it out across New York.”
What Happens Next?
A hit to his political clout is not the worst-case scenario for Mayor Thomas. If convicted of the highest charges, he faces up to six years in prison.
If Thomas resigns — as many opponents have called for — or is otherwise removed from office, it will be the first time the mayor’s seat will be left vacant since the death of Mayor Thomas Sharpe in 1984. In either event, a special election would be held to replace Thomas: some time between July and September, though it could be held later should the office be vacated less than 45 days prior to Election Day.
Mayor Thomas has vowed to fight the charges, but the coming months should prove especially intense for both the Mayor’s and Attorney General’s offices.