On June 1, 2018, Mayor Richard Thomas, when speaking about his plan to renovate Memorial Field by any means necessary, said: “The process involves removing both the dirty dirt and tenants that refuse to pay back-rent amounting to more than five hundred thousand dollars. We will give Mount Vernon back a bigger, better revenue-generating Memorial Field no matter what is in the way.” Mayor Thomas’ plan for Memorial Field now stands to cost the City of Mount Vernon dearly. In his quest to return Memorial Field to its residents, the Mayor has acted without regard to process, law, or common sense when he instructed the illegal entry to the tennis center and the destruction of personal property. His unlawful operation may in fact cost Mount Vernon taxpayers far more than the total revenue to be ever generated from Memorial Field.

What’s the cost? As it turns out, a whole lot. Let’s see how the Mayor’s actions have impacted Mount Vernon taxpayer and residents:

•The operator of the tennis center, that was “in the way”, has sued the City for $27 million dollars. Taxpayer dollars will be used to defend the Mayor in this lawsuit. Likewise, any judgment the tennis center operators receive will be borne by Mount Vernon taxpayers.

•During his election to become Mayor, Richard Thomas as a bash against his predecessor, Ernie Davis, asserted that the dirt in Memorial Field was dirty. There was no proof or valid information to support this claim. It was simply a political ploy. Well, it turns out, it wasn’t dirty after all. Several rounds of environmental testing determined no real contamination on either the Memorial Field site or under the tennis center. And, yes, taxpayers will pay for these tests.

•Furthermore, after the Mayor’s assertions about the dirty dirt, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) requested immediate testing of the soil. The Mayor failed to meet the deadline so NYSDEC levied a $10,000 fine against the City of Mount Vernon for failure to test the “dirty dirt”. Mount Vernon taxpayers will pay this fine and any further fines from NYSDEC.

•The Mount Vernon City Charter requires City Council approvals prior to renovation of Memorial Field; however, this Mayor deemed the City Council to be “in the way” of city progress and wanted to proceed without council approvals. In response to the Mayor’s unlawful actions, the City Council sought a temporary restraining order from the Westchester County Supreme Court to prevent Mayor Thomas from violating the law. Subsequently, Mayor Thomas then instructed his lawyers to file a frivolous appeal of that order, which the presiding judge rejected. Who will pay those legal fees? You guessed it. The Mount Vernon’s taxpayers will.

•Westchester County has authorized its Executive to file suit against Mount Vernon for breaching a 2008 agreement with Mount Vernon which allowed County to renovate Memorial Field. A requirement of this arrangement is that the Mayor and the County negotiate particular details; however, the Mayor, by not being a helpful participant, has acted in bad faith. It is now very possible that the County may choose legal actions against the City at the expense of Mount Vernon taxpayers.

•The contractors the Mayor hired to tear down the grandstands and the tennis bubble still haven’t been paid; at least one of them has already filed suit against the city. Those legal fees and subsequent judgement will come out of our pockets.

•The 300 Mount Vernon young people that use the Kela Tennis Center were needlessly deprived of that facility for the entire summer. And, at this rate there will be no facility for them next summer as well.

There is no logical explanation for Mayor Thomas’ inability to comply with basic orders and reasonable request to cooperate, especially when the County is willing and able to begin Memorial Field’s renovation. The County is willing to undertake the renovation cost thereby relieving Mount Vernon taxpayers of this burden. And, more importantly the job will be done in a timely fashion. Mayor Thomas is turning away a free gift for Mount Vernon! This makes no sense. Worst of all, the entire fiasco has become another colossal embarrassment for the City and its citizens. And, it distracts our city officials from doing the job of taking care of your needs, Mount Vernon residents.

On June 1st, Mayor Thomas also said, “sometimes you have to break a few eggs.” It appears he broke a lot more than that: like Mount Vernon taxpayers’ bank accounts and spirit. But, Memorial Field will be renovated and returned to the residents of Mount Vernon. But, not because of Mayor Thomas. It will in spite of him.

If you have thoughts or comments about this issue or any other, reach out to me at [email protected]

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