Mount Vernon’s Chief Legal Officer is calling on the City Council to fund the post of an Inspector General following “abuses of power by the Board of Ethics,” which accused embattled Mayor Richard Thomas of violating state education laws and collected more than $100,000 while serving as a trustee at a city charter school.
Last week, the Mount Vernon Board of Ethics levied a claim against Thomas, stating that he collected more than $100,000 as a trustee at Amani Public Charter School - where he has served since 2011 - which would be in violation of New York State education laws, which state that trustees cannot be compensated for their work.
Thomas has since vehemently denied the allegations, calling them “factually wrong, grossly negligent and morally bankrupt.”
In response, on Tuesday afternoon, Mount Vernon Corporation Counsel Lawrence Porcari said “the utter disregard of the City Charter associated with the report's release could have been avoided had an Inspector General been present throughout the process, ensuring both compliance and legality of the actions of the Board of Ethics.”
”The actions of the Ethics Board throughout the past week is a stain on their reputation." he said, "In fact, the Mayor is expressly exempt from some reporting requirements according to the New York State General Municipal Law, including certain disclosures, and there is no evidence to suggest that the claims made by the Board of Ethics are factually accurate.”
In a written reprimand issued by Porcari to the Mount Vernon Board of Ethics, he said that “the reckless release of the confidential report was indicative of a will to circumvent due process and unjustly harm the Mayor of Mount Vernon.
"Ethics boards do not exist to be weapons of political factions. They are tools to ensure the public's trust in government. As such they must be fair, objective, nonpartisan and adhere to due process. Anything less is unacceptable, as it feeds cynicism, erodes public trust and defeats the very purpose of their role in government. An Inspector General will provide the means to hold city employees, boards, and officials accountable and do so in a way that ensures the process is conducted ethically and without political interference.”
According to Porcari, the City Council has been under a court order to restore and fund the position of Inspector General since 2010, but they have never done so.
In a statement last week, Thomas noted "what kind of so-called Ethics Board makes such an egregious mistake and then compounds by it by breaching its confidential duty by leaking multiple falsehoods, falsehoods that had been legally addressed by my counsel prior to completion of the report."
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