EMBATTLED INSPECTOR GENERAL HARRY STOKES
Harry Stokes did not waste any time get acclimated to his new position as Inspector when he took the reins in January 2008. Corruption was running rampant in the City of Mount Vernon and the idea of having an Inspector General sounded like a good idea at the time. After all, the Inspector General was going to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse. At least that is what taxpayers thought he was going to do.
In March of 2008 Harry Stokes sent around a memo to all department heads in City Hall describing the role of an Inspector General and what kinds of allegations fall under the jurisdiction of his office. Stokes was very detailed in his memo and from the outside looking in; the City of Mount Vernon appeared to be moving in the right direction.
Mount Vernon taxpayers had no idea that Stokes’ premeditated mission was to go after Comptroller Maureen Walker. His marching orders would come from none other than Mayor Clinton Young. In 2006 The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released an audit stating that the City of Mount Vernon had overbilled the government in excess of $2million dollars. Mayor Young subsequently entered into an agreement to repay HUD approximately $1.7 million dollars. Mayor Young was boasting that he saved taxpayers $500,000 through superb negotiating skills.
Mayor Young must not have done very well in math class. Mount Vernon taxpayers ultimately would have to pay $1.7 million to the federal government because someone decided to stick their hands in the cookie jar. The payment to the federal government is approximately $43,000 per month. Where did Mayor Young get the idea that he was saving taxpayers $500,000? In the end Mount Vernon taxpayers are left holding the bag for someone else’s mismanagement of government funds.
The Inspector General’s first assignment should have been to investigate the troubled Urban Renewal Agency. Mount Vernon taxpayers deserved to know how over $2million is still unaccounted for. To this date, the Inspector General and Mayor Young have not publicly disclosed what internal controls have been put in place to prevent this from happening again, even The Mayor and the Inspector General held a press conference in April 2008 stating that this was the administration’s top priority. Mayor Young even stated that he was going to consult with the Corporation Counsel to what are the legal options for recouping the stolen loot.
Just a few months ago, The Journal News reported that over $12,000 was stolen via forged checks from the Urban Renewal Agency. It is quite obvious that Mayor Young has no intentions of finding out why government funds keep growing legs and walking out of the door of the Urban Renewal Agency.
There are only two viable solutions to correct the longstanding pattern of corruption plaguing City Hall. Dissolve the Urban Renewal Agency altogether or make permanent office space for the F.B.I. in City Hall.
GLOSSARY OF ALLEGATIONS REVIEWED/TRACKED
BY THE OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL (OIG)
In his memo, Stokes was so kind to include a glossary of allegations describing in detail what the OIG investigates. Stokes should have been extremely busy as Mayor Young’s administration falls under nearly every category of allegations named in Stokes memo.
Here are some of the allegations that the OIG investigates-
Abuse of Power- Mayor Young and Corporation Counsel Loretta Hottinger consistently and repeatedly abuse their power. Whether it is not providing documents to the public through simple Freedom of Information requests of the retaliatory firing of 1st Corporation Counsel Nichelle A. Johnson, Hottinger and Mayor Young should be investigated. Mayor Young and Stokes again are guilty of abuse of power. Stokes does not live adhere to residency requirements as mandated by The Mount Vernon City Charter.
Background Investigations- There is several Commissioners in City Hall that have criminal records and/or are convicted felons. There has been widespread speculation that DPW Commissioner Terrence Horton is a convicted felon and walks freely through City Hall with a gun on a daily basis. Horton stated on his employment application that he has been convicted of a crime. In he is indeed a felon, it is a violation of Federal law for a felon to posses any type of firearms whatsoever.
Bribery- There has been allegations that Mayor Young and former Councilmember’s have accepted bribes from Atlantic Development in order to gain approvals for a massive affordable housing complex they are seeking to build in The City of Mount Vernon. Atlantic Development is a Manhattan based development company that had their offices raided by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. The Daily News reported that Atlantic Development is being probed for bribing public officials and the hiring of undocumented workers. Kenneth Plummer a close friend and crony of Mayor Young, has been retained by Atlantic Development to lobby City and County officials to gain approvals for this project. Plummer’s firm Kensworth Consulting has received payments in excess of $20,000 for working on Mayor Young’s campaign.
Conflict of Interests- DPW Commissioner Terrence Horton has an application before the planning board seeking approval to construct a massive 42 unit tower on Franklin Avenue. Horton’s activity is strictly prohibited by the Mount Vernon City Charter.
Contract Fraud- Ralph Tedesco aided and abetted by newly appointed Water Commissioner Brian Bochow fraudulently prepared contracts that resulted in Rossignuolo Contracting being award over $65,000 in no-bid contracts. Rossignuolo Contracting is owned by Bochow’s brother in law. Tedesco falsely stated to City officials that these were emergency demolitions when in fact that was not the case.
Embezzlement- A few months back it was reported that over $12,000 in federal funds were stolen via forged checks from the Urban Renewal Agency. It has been alleged that Mayor Young’s signature stamp was used to commit this crime
Falsifying Official Documents- Former building commissioner Ralph Tedesco falsified several documents to obtain a certificate of occupancy for his personal residence located at 24-26 Devonia Avenue. Documents were also falsified by Tedesco in order for Rossignuolo contracting to get the award to demolish buildings in the City of Mount Vernon
Favoritism- The hiring of the Inspector General was solely based on friendship. Stokes previously worked for the law firm of Aiello and Cannick. Devereaux Cannick is a friend of Mayor Young and Chairman of the Democratic City Committee in Mount Vernon. Stokes conveniently left his employment with Aiello and Cannick off of his resume that he submitted to the Civil Service Commission.
Fraud- Fraud is running rampant in the City of Mount Vernon. From the buildings department to DPW to the Mayor’s office there is no shortage if fraud in City Hall.
Kickbacks- There has been allegations that Mayor Young and former Councilmember’s have received kickbacks from Atlantic Development in exchange for their blessing for the affordable housing complex they are seeking to build in downtown Mount Vernon.
Mismanagement- Mayor Young and many members of his administration as well as former council members repeatedly and consistently abused taxpayer monies. Approving $21M in bond spending and beautifying the sidewalks around Terrence Horton’s personal properties are just some examples of how Mayor Young and his cronies abuse taxpayer dollars
Misuse/Diversion of City Property- Last year, former Special Assistant to Mayor Young, John Boykin, crashed a City vehicle on a Sunday. It has not been determined if Boykin was on official business. The person involved in the accident is now pursuing legal action against the City of Mount Vernon. It has also been alleged that Chief of Staff Yolanda Robinson used her City issued vehicles for personal errands. Sources have told Mount Vernon Exposed that they have seen Yolanda Robinson’s vehicle during the holiday season at the Westchester Mall in White Plains.
Operational Issues- With the exception of the City Clerk, Assessor, and Comptrollers’ office virtually every city agency has operational issues thus having an adverse effect on operations.
Unethical Conduct- unethical conducts is systemically embedded into the culture of Mayor Young’s administration.
As duly noted, there is plenty for the Inspector General to do without engaging in a political witch hunt against Comptroller Maureen Walker. Mount Vernon Exposed commends the newly elected City Council members for their commitment to restoring trust to the public.
OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL PRESENTATION TO DEPARTMENT HEADS