The city of Mount Vernon, New York, currently has two mayors who each claim to be in charge of the town. The confusion led to the new police commissioner, appointed by one of the mayors, being arrested by his own officers when he showed up for work.
Just last month, Mount Vernon only had one mayor: Richard Thomas. On July 8, Thomas pleaded guilty to third-degree attempted grand larceny after he used campaign funds for personal expenses. He also pleaded guilty to second-degree offering a false statement for filing. As part of the plea deal, he agreed to step down as mayor on Sept. 30.
But just two days later, the City Council swore in Andre Wallace as acting Mayor. The council argued that once Thomas pleaded guilty, it had the right to remove him from office and replace him.
Thomas has refused to step down before September, and right now both mayors claim to be legally the one who should be in office. City officials have reportedly been siding with both mayors, adding more confusion in the city government.
“The bottom line is, I am the mayor of Mount Vernon,” Thomas said defiantly on Friday, according to WABC-TV. “And the distractions and the continued antics by the City Council is just that, irresponsible antics and distractions.”
Shawn Harris, who had been police commissioner before but was removed from that post by Thomas, was re-appointed as commissioner by Wallace. But not everyone in the city recognizes Wallace’s authority. When Harris tried to go into his office on Tuesday, he was arrested for trespassing and spent nine hours in jail.
He told WNBC-TV that the incident was the “worst day of my life.” The DA has said it will not file charges and pushed for Harris’s release.
“It’s been an embarrassment for me, and my family and the great city of Mount Vernon,” Harris added.
The City Council is trying to clean up the political mess, voting Tuesday night to hire a law firm to navigate the mayoral mayhem. Media was denied access to the meeting.