Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas is claiming that the criminal charges that were brought against him on Monday are “technical in nature relating to Election Law,” and are “merely accusations with no supporting evidence.”
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman formally announced charges against Thomas on Monday afternoon, after an investigation exposed that he allegedly stole $12,900 from his campaign committee and diverted more than $45,000 from his inaugural committee for personal use and failed to disclose that information to officials.
Thomas was charged with third-degree grand larceny and two counts of third-degree ordering a false instrument for filing, all felonies. He was also charged with two counts of second-degree offering a false instrument for filing, misdemeanors.
In response, Thomas issued a statement on the steps of Mount Vernon City Hall, claiming his innocence regarding disclosure requirements that he allegedly violated during his run for mayor in 2015.
“The allegations are merely accusations with no supporting evidence. No indictment has been brought against Mayor Thomas,” his office said in a statement on Monday afternoon. “The allegations are claims of a technical nature relating to Election Law, campaign finance and ethics disclosures. It should be noted that the funds in question, paid to then candidate-Thomas’ personal account, were legal and justified, and made on the advice of counsel, as compensation for his own campaign duties.
“Thomas, while a candidate for Mount Vernon Mayor, left his job to work solely for his campaign; responsible for a variety of roles, ranging from manager to mail clerk. Additionally, as Schneiderman noted himself, there are no legal restrictions under New York State law pertaining to how Inaugural funds can, or cannot, be spent.”
In his own statement, Schneiderman said “as we allege, Mayor Thomas used his campaign and inaugural accounts as personal piggybanks – part of a long-running scheme that began during his 2015 campaign and continued throughout his time in office. As we detail in the felony complaint, 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.”
Thomas’ lawyer, Carl Bernstein called the claims against Thomas “unfounded.”
“The allegations announced today by the Attorney General are unfounded and Mayor Thomas strongly proclaims his innocence. The mayor’s 2015 campaign never, in any way, intended to violate the law and expects that, through the justice system, his name will be completely cleared of any wrongdoing.
“The mayor and his team of legal experts await their opportunity to refute these charges in a court of law. The allegations are not public corruption, they are campaign infractions that could have been handled with simple amendments to paperwork filed. If the Attorney General really wanted to rid the City of Mount Vernon of corruption, he would be teaming up with Mayor Thomas, who has made public ethics a top priority and has done more to fight corruption than any of his predecessors in City Hall. ”
“The allegations are false," Thomas added "I want to reassure the people of Mount Vernon that they are related to the campaign and not my service in office. I have great confidence in our legal system and have no doubt I will be able to prove our full compliance. I will not allow the process to distract me from my service and duties. I expect to be fully vindicated.”
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