Office of Communications

Mayor and City Council Hold Emergency Press Conference on Comptroller Deborah Reynolds

November 20, 2020– Today, Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson and the City Council held a joint press conference to discuss Comptroller Deborah Reynolds and how her lack of transparency, accountability and professionalism has left the City in dire financial straits. With a looming COVID-19 second wave compounding other critical financial needs, the City faces a crucial crossroads — the release of more than 13 million dollars being held up by the Comptroller or drastic austerity measures including a possible 25% cut across all agencies or a ten percent tax increase on already burdened local taxpayers.

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MayorShawyn Patterson-Howard, City Council member Derrick Thompson, City Councilmember Marcus Griffith, and other local stakeholders detailed the Comptroller’s impact on Mount Vernon residents, their demands for transparency and cooperation, and plans for holding Comptroller Reynolds accountable. An assembly of elected officials, community leaders and civil servants provided harrowing accounts of the Comptroller’s malfeasance, which has robbed vulnerable frontline workers of hard-earned overtime pay, cheated cash-strapped small businesses of their receivables, slowed city efforts to assist residents facing eviction and utility disconnection, prevented street repaving and hampered the City from purchasing life-saving firetrucks, ambulances, a police mobile command center, body cameras and making improvements to support its fiscal recovery efforts.

Mary Kingsley and Rey Hollingsworth, both realtors in Mount Vernon said that over the next 12 months more than 143 million dollars in home sales can be lost for Comptroller Reynolds failure to process property transfer taxes. This will amount to 1.43 million dollars lost in revenue to the City of Mount Vernon. Out of 50 title companies in the state we are down to only 2 who will do business with residents and realtors. CEO Amy Gelles of The Guidance Center of Westchester stated that her organization had to absorb over 250,000 dollars in rent payments for some of the cities most vulnerable residents due to the failure of Comptroller Reynolds to transfer federal funds to the Urban Renewal Agency(URA).

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For more than two years, City Comptroller Deborah Reynolds has operated above the purview of the City of Mount Vernon with impunity. She began her abuse of power by sealing off the financial and purchasing system (MUNIS) from the executive branch with an illegal firewall in her office, essentially operating as a rogue agency within City Hall administration.

Here are some of her most egregious actions:

● Failure to accept tax payments from residents for months. It takes months for these payments to be accepted and processed.

● Failure to process over 2.5 million dollars in unpaid invoices from vendors in Public Works going back to late 2017.

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

● Refused to allow external auditors access to perform testing needed to complete the City’s 2016 audit, which will play a critical role in re-establishing our bond rating.

● Failed to provide financial reports to city officials for 35 months.

● Failed to process transfer taxes, which caused NYS title companies to send a letter threatening to stop doing business in Mount Vernon. This unprecedented action endangers local homeowners, buyers and realtors.

● Failed to follow legislation passed by City Council and Board of Contract & Estimate.

● Failure to disperse HUD/URA money in a timely manner.

● Failed to pay reimbursements for paving, holding up 2.7 million dollars in CHIPS money over an unpaid $370,000 bill from 2018.

● Failed to sign off the voucher for the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services GIVE grant for $220,000. We are currently awaiting reimbursement for $183,000 that we are set to lose because she won’t process.

● Failure to pay public safety personnel. Blocked the hiring of eleven firefighters in Oct/Nov 2019 because a family friend was not selected for the force. We now have eighteen vacancies and are dangerously below national fire standards.

● Failure to follow civil service law. She has refused to produce certified payroll and has been given 43 payroll exception notices that she has ignored. Additionally, she has refused to follow step increases for our civil services employees, many of whom are on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic, for the last two years.

● Failure to comply with federal contract requirements related to 666 funds, which is a requirement of the US Department of Justice. She has refused to release these 666 funds desperately needed for the purchase of patrol vehicles, surveillance equipment and body cameras. In an age of police reform, these are critical tools needed to improve public safety.

● Failure to process payments and reimbursements has caused our Veterans Service Agency to lose its accreditation. Our nation’s heroes deserve so much more than to be insulted by the inaction of our Comptroller.

● Failure to accept funds owed and paid to the city. Turning away hundreds of thousands of dollars from revenue generating departments, including parking tickets, a $472k sewer bill in 2019 from the school district and money from PILOTS tax payments ($440,000) and various departmental revenues.

“Through her negligence and lack of transparency, Comptroller Reynolds has hampered the progress of Mount Vernon and exposed our residents to tremendous risk, says Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard. “With the very real threat of an impending COVID-19 second wave, we can’t afford another moment of her political machinations. We’re calling on the Comptroller to do her job and release the funds for the City to protect the people of Mount Vernon from the global pandemic.”

“As a strong advocate for Mt. Vernon I fight hard to ensure that state funding flows into our City.” says Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow. “It is not only disheartening but reprehensible to know that $2.7 million in paving funds and $400k in public safety funds are being held up by the Comptroller’s failure to work with City officials to pay bills and process paperwork. Cities across the state are seeing 20% reductions in State funding and we are re-capturing unspent grant monies. We cannot afford to lose funding or decrease essential services to Mount Vernon. Our residents deserve better.”

“In the midst of global pandemic, it is crucial that all Mount Vernon elected officials work together, says State Senator Jamaal T. Bailey. “The financial well-being of our city requires transparency and accountability by its leading fiscal officer. I urge Comptroller Reynolds to put any differences aside she may have and work with the Mayor and City Council to help the residents she serves. This is no time to neglect the needs of our city.

In the midst of a pandemic and widespread economic hardship, the Comptroller must put the people in the City of Mount Vernon first and fulfill her fiscal responsibilities immediately. If she is unwilling to do that, it is time for Governor Cuomo to step in and help Mount Vernon restore its finances and build back its integrity. The people of Mount Vernon cannot afford to wait any longer. We are past pretending that this issue does not exist and will go away on its own.” said NYS Senator Alessandra Biaggi (D34 — Bronx/Westchester)

Congressman-elect Jamaal Bowman said “At a time when Mount Vernon needs the support of their government more than ever, elected officials have a responsibility to step up and do our jobs in an exemplary manner. The people of Mount Vernon need relief now. I strongly urge the Comptroller to do what’s right for the people of Mount Vernon.”

“Like the Mayor, the City Council has had difficulty getting financial information from the Comptroller to move the City forward, says City Council President pro tem Marcus A Griffith. “This is a critical issue. We passed legislation to compel Comptroller Reynolds to release financial data, so far, she has not complied. Her disdain for the law is hurting the people of Mount Vernon and making it nearly impossible to both handle our current challenges and plan for the City’s future.”

“As elected officials, we agree to do the best we can for the city we serve, says Councilman Derrick Thompson. Her negligence is an affront to every single Mount Vernon resident. Our City needs and deserves real transparency and accountability from the Comptroller. This crisis of leadership must be resolved, or Mount Vernon residents will continue to suffer.”

“Our City is hurting due to the inaction of Comptroller Reynolds. Last night we almost lost our 911 system, which would’ve removed the ability for anyone to call for an emergency. All because the Comptroller hasn’t paid a maintenance bill, says Police Commissioner Glenn Scott. “This, along with over $850,000 in bills have remained unpaid. Public Safety is a critical need for Mount Vernon and Comptroller Reynolds is putting lives in danger by her refusal to do her job.”

“We almost lost an entire city block to a fire because the Comptroller refused to transfer money for a new aerial ladder truck, says Fire Commissioner Deborah Norman. “Thankfully, our neighbors in NYC allowed us to borrow a truck the day before and it helped save lives and property. Our department has been hampered by COVID-19 and as first responders, the Comptroller’s inaction is putting the lives of our firefighters at risk.”

“The Law Department has tried to work with the Comptroller’s office, but her refusal to cooperate with us has injured the city financially, says Brian Johnson, Mount Vernon’s Corporation Counsel. “The circular nature of her department, in which emails, letters, invoices are not processed timely is causing a serious financial burden. Furthermore, we have been unable to reconcile 2.4 million dollars in legal bills that appear to be on the city’s books.

Mount Vernon is fighting back against her unacceptable behavior and will soon have its day in court. The City is confident that the people will prevail. In the event that Comptroller Reynolds once again refuses to comply, we City officials will call on Attorney General Letitia James and State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to intervene.

Watch the full press conference here: http://https://youtu.be/5QRX4VzMDX8

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Press Release: City of Mount Vernon issues Stay at Home Advisory Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases

November 13, 2020- As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in New York, the City of Mount Vernon has issued a Stay at Home advisory to protect residents and reduce the spread. In recent weeks, Mount Vernon has experienced a double-digit increase in daily COVID-19 cases. Our current active case count currently stands at 124 with 84 new cases added thus far in November. Therefore, the City of Mount Vernon strongly advises residents to stay inside their homes unless traveling for work, school, or essential needs. The Mount Vernon COVID-19 taskforce will continue to enforce social distancing regulations and shut down businesses that fail to follow COVID-19 guidelines s well as educating the public about the importance of wearing masks. The Stay at Home advisory goes into effect on Monday, November 16th.

This advisory follows the new order from Governor Andrew Cuomo ordering Bars, Restaurants, and Gyms to close at 10 pm and the public to significantly reduce the size of gathering. To report on COVID-19 issues contact 914-665-2626 or 914-665-2500.

We also urge residents to get tested at the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center, Mount Vernon Hospital, or other medical facilities. As the city continues to address the COVID-19 outbreak, the cooperation of the public will be essential. We will take the necessary actions to protect Mount Vernon residents and continue to urge the use of face masks and social distancing protocols when appropriate. 

Halloween should be spooky, not scary! Governor Cuomo asks for your help to make sure everyone has a healthy and safe Halloween.

Halloween celebrations and activities, including trick-or-treating, can be filled with fun, but must be done in a safe way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The best way to celebrate Halloween this year is to have fun with the people who live in your household. Decorating your house or apartment, decorating and carving pumpkins, playing Halloween-themed games, watching spooky movies, and trick-or-treating through your house or in a backyard scavenger hunt are all fun and healthy ways to celebrate during this time.

Creative ways to celebrate more safely:

• Organize a virtual Halloween costume party with costumes and games.
• Have a neighborhood car parade or vehicle caravan where families show off their costumes while staying socially distanced and remaining in their cars.
• In cities or apartment buildings, communities can come together to trick-or-treat around the block or other outdoor spaces so kids and families aren’t tempted to trick-or-treat inside –building residents & businesses can contribute treats that are individually wrapped and placed on a table(s) outside of the front door of the building, or in the other outdoor space for grab and go trick-or-treating.
• Make this year even more special and consider non-candy Halloween treats that your trick-or-treaters will love, such as spooky or glittery stickers, magnets, temporary tattoos, pencils/erasers, bookmarks, glow sticks, or mini notepads.
• Create a home or neighborhood scavenger hunt where parents or guardians give their kids candy when they find each “clue.”
• Go all out to decorate your house this year – have a neighborhood contest for the best-decorated house.
• Carve and decorate pumpkins at home – try some new creative ideas and have a
family contest.
• Play Halloween-themed games with members of your household.
• Watch spooky movies.
• Trick-or-treat room to room in your home.

If you feel your family can’t wait until next year for the more traditional Halloween activities, and you are planning to celebrate outside your home this year, make sure you follow these simple Do’s and Don’ts to help keep your family and your community safe and healthy.

Do:

• Enjoy virtual celebrations or socially distanced activities that are outdoors as much as possible.
• If there are a high number of cases in your area, it is important to skip any in-person celebrations or activities altogether.
• You can check the number of cases in your area on the New York State Department of Health COVID-19 Tracker.
• Trick-or-treat only with your household family group. Consider a family costume theme!
• Always stay socially distanced from those who are not living in your household. (You don’t want to get too close to a witch, a ghost, or especially a virus!)
• For those choosing to give out treats, avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
• Give treats outdoors. Set up a station with individually bagged or packaged treats for kids to take. Participate in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard).
• It is best to take candy only if it is individually wrapped in a sealed wrapper or baggy, and is available to grab and go placed separately from other candies, so kids can easily pick up their treats without touching candy another child will take (e.g., no bowls).
• If setting a grab and go station, set it six feet from your front door, which will allow trick or treaters to feel comfortable
to approach, knowing they will not be in close contact with anyone at the location.
• All individuals over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering must wear face coverings or cloth masks. Most Halloween masks won’t be sufficient to meet Department of Health guidance, so ensure you wear a face covering that provides adequate protection.
• See if you can incorporate your face covering into a costume, but remember, a face covering must always be made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.
• Wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before, during and after any Halloween activities.
• Consider carrying Halloween-themed or decorated hand sanitizer or leaving some out for your treat-or-treaters to use.
• Only give out, or pick up, commercially wrapped treats that are sealed.

Don’t:

• Trick-or-treat or leave out candy if you are sick, live with someone who is sick, have been exposed to someone known to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days, are under isolation or quarantine, or have traveled internationally or to a state affected by the
NYS Travel Advisory in the last 14 days.
• Participate in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed out at the door and where you cannot stay socially distanced.
• Pick out candy from a bowl or receive candy directly from someone’s hands.
• If there is crowding in front of a home, or if treats are directly taken from a bowl or directly handed out from someone’s hands, skip that house and find a safer option.
• Trick-or-treat in crowded streets or neighborhoods where social distance cannot be maintained.
• Trick-or-treat indoors, unless you are at your own house with family members. 
• You should especially avoid any crowding in elevators, hallways or stairwells.
• Trick-or-treat in large groups.
• Take candy from someone else’s candy bag.
• Host or attend a party or any type of gathering or event, whether it is indoors or outdoors over the mass gathering limits set for your area.
• Events lasting several hours or that have people who have traveled from other areas where transmission is higher put your family most at risk of COVID-19 transmission.
• If you do go to an event and see a large crowd, or if there are others there who are not wearing face coverings or staying socially distanced, you should leave and find another way to celebrate Halloween.
• Wear a Halloween mask instead of a face covering, unless the Halloween mask meets the face covering guidance.
• Wear a Halloween costume mask OVER a cloth face mask; it can make it difficult to breathe.
• Instead, skip the costume mask this year and choose a
cloth face mask that compliments your costume or is Halloween-themed.