Investigate the Finances of Mount Vernon

Dear District Attorney Rocah;

The City of Mount Vernon is facing a potential furlough/layoff of critical public safety, civil service and public works employees. For the last year we’ve documented and highlighted this issue and called on our Comptroller to provide financial information that is mandated by the charter. To this end, the Comptroller has been unwilling to come to the table and present documentation to help with the completion of the 2021 budget. The lack of cooperation from the Comptroller during this entire budget process is troubling. She continues to hide where the money of the City is being held through 39 different bank accounts that she refuses to shed light on, only allowing access to three of those accounts at Chase Bank. Her actions are a direct threat to the public safety of our community.

Additionally, the Comptroller is spending unauthorized money on her personal attorneys outside of the view of the Board of Estimate and City Council, she has installed illegal firewalls to block outside access to the city’s internal records using MUNIS, and she has entered into illegal contracts with vendors, all outside the purview of governmental oversight.

Furthermore, the Comptroller has shown her interference to provide this access to any members of the public and continues to obstruct the day to day governance of our city. I am asking for the Westchester County District Attorney’s office to utilize the Public Integrity Bureau to investigate the City of Mount Vernon’s finances and to prosecute to the full extent of the law any crimes committed by the Comptroller or employees of the city in regards to corruption, fraud or any other crimes. We do so under the suspicion that our Comptroller has violated the following NY Penal Laws:

· §195.00 — Official Misconduct

· §195.05 — Obstructing governmental administration in the second degree

· §195.07 — Obstructing governmental administration in the first degree

· §195.20 — Defrauding the government

We have strong fears that Comptroller Reynolds has abused her power and caused irreparable harm. I’ve outlined some of her most egregious actions below that rise to misdemeanor or felony levels:

● Failure to follow and cooperate with the US Department of Justice and NY Department of Environment Conservation Consent Decrees.

● Obstructing the process of transfer taxes, which caused NYS title companies to send a letter threatening to stop doing business in Mount Vernon.

● Failed to comply with legislation passed by City Council and Board of Estimate & Contract

● Failed to comply with ordinances, recommended by the State Comptroller’s Office through their audit, passed by the City Council and Board of Estimate & Contract on August 5 and 12.

● Failure to disperse millions of dollars of HUD/URA money in a timely manner, nearly 12 million dollars to the City which obstructs the delivery of critical social needs.

● Failed to pay reimbursements for paving, holding up 2.7 million dollars in CHIPS money over an unpaid $370,000 bill from 2018, therefore obstructing our city from repaving roads for the last three years. She also refuses to sign off a voucher for the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services GIVE grant for $220,000 and $180,000. This obstruction prevents our Police Department from carrying out police reform and other initiatives.

● Failed to process school taxes, causing the school district to take over the collection of school taxes and costing the City of Mount Vernon $600,000+ in revenue.

● Failed to pay public safety personnel, refusing to pay overtime. Blocked the hiring of eleven firefighters in Oct/Nov 2019 because a family friend was not selected for the force, a blatant abuse of power.

● Failed to comply with federal contract requirements related to 666 funds, which is a requirement of the US Department of Justice.

● Failed to accept funds owed and paid to the city. Turning away hundreds of thousands of dollars from revenue generating departments, including parking tickets, a $482,000 tax payment/bill from the school district and numerous residents tax bills which we have documented.

● Refuses to follow contractual obligations for civil service employees including, but not limited to; Overtime not being paid to Public Workers employees and Police Officers not being paid at their property salaries. Her obstruction has violated numerous civil service laws.

We have also reached out to the New York State Comptroller’s Office to request the appointment of an Emergency Financial Control Board. While this restricts Mount Vernon’s fiscal sovereignty, we are in a dire situation that requires immediate intervention. We’ve been raising the awareness of this potential situation over the last few months through press conferences and email correspondence to our elected officials. As you recall, we immediate requested the state to come in and do an audit of the City of Mount Vernon’s financial operation and policies. I would request that you reach out to Deputy State Comptroller Elliot Auerbach for an update.

Mount Vernon has reached the financial cliff, without a full investigation into the obstruction and negligent actions of the Comptroller, Mount Vernon will face some difficult decisions in our immediate and near future that will have irreparable harm on our public health and safety. I am requesting an immediate meeting with you or your staff to discuss this letter and the contents within and ask for the Public Integrity Bureau to fully investigate the claims made above. I know you wish to hold our elected and public officials accountable and as Mayor I want to do what is best for Mount Vernon.

In Service,

Shawyn Patterson-Howard, MPA
Mayor, City of Mount Vernon

1st African American Woman Elected Mayor for the great City of Mount Vernon, NY.