Mount Vernon Mayor to Resign in September Over Misuse of Campaign Funds
John Jordan | July 2019
WHITE PLAINS—Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas who came into office in 2016 promising to reform city government will be resigning effective Sept. 30th after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor criminal charges in connection with his admitted misuse of campaign funds.
Mayor Thomas agreed to resign from office as part of a plea deal he reached with New York State Attorney General Letitia James and State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli on July 8. Mayor Thomas pled guilty to stealing campaign funds and lying about those funds on a disclosure to the State Board of Elections.
The mayor 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.
“By using campaign funds to line his own pockets, Thomas broke the law, and violated public trust,” said Attorney General James. “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. My office will continue to root out public corruption, uphold the integrity of public office, and bring bad actors to justice at every level of government throughout New York.”
“Mayor Thomas admitted to knowingly misusing campaign donations to fund his lifestyle instead of funding his campaign,” said State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “Thanks to my partnership with Attorney General Letitia James, his scheme was exposed and he has now admitted his guilt. I will continue to work with Attorney General James to root out public corruption across the state.”
Mayor Thomas pled guilty to charges of Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class A misdemeanor, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor. The guilty plea is in satisfaction of an indictment filed in Westchester County that stemmed from a joint investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General and the New York State Office of the Comptroller.
As part of the plea agreement, Mayor Thomas admitted he knowingly and unlawfully appropriated contributions totaling approximately $13,000 from his campaign committee, the Friends of Richard Thomas, during his 2015 mayoral candidacy, for his own personal use.
Thomas also admitted that he knowingly and 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. 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.
The prosecution was handled for the Attorney General’s Office by Assistant Attorney General Brian P. Weinberg, Special Counsel to the Public Integrity Bureau, and Assistant Attorney General Meagan E. Powers under the supervision of Public Integrity Bureau Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz. The Public Integrity Bureau is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice José Maldonado.
The Comptroller’s investigation was conducted by the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations.
Since 2016, the mayor has attempted to reform the city planning process and rezone sections of the city in need of redevelopment. During his tenure, a number of major mixed-use projects have broken ground or been completed.
However, he has had a rocky relationship with some members of the City Council as well as with some other elected officials in city government. He has also battled with county government over funding and repairs to Memorial Field.
In early July, Mayor Thomas filed suit in connection with his defeat in a primary election in late June. The Journal News reported that the lawsuit named Board of Elections Commissioners Reginald Lafayette and Douglas Colety and the three other primary candidates as defendants and sought voter records, a court review of the uncounted ballots and a new primary election if fraud and irregularity were found.