On October 23 2013, Mount Vernon Exposed publisher Samuel L. Rivers was summoned to a meeting with Mount Vernon City Councilman Yuhanna Edwards. The meeting was held at Councilman Edwards’ office located at 6 Gramatan Avenue. Councilman Yuhanna Edwards was dispatched by Mount Vernon City School District School Superintendent Judith Johnson in attempt to silence Mr. Rivers from his public criticizing Judith Johnson’s failed policies and blatant corruption taking place at the Board of Education center.
The embattled councilman has come under fire just recently for overriding the New York State Mandated 2% property tax cap. Edwards conspired with fellow council members Marcus Griffith and Council President Roberta Apuzzo to approve an illegal budget that calls for a tax hike of 7.77% even those on fixed government incomes will receive a cost of living increase of slightly over 1%.
When Mr. Rivers arrived at Councilman Edwards office, Councilman Edwards greeted Mr. Rivers and escorted Mr. Rivers to a back office/meeting room. Both parties were seated and Councilman Edwards started to shoot the breeze and ask Mr. Rivers how everything was going? Mr. Rivers told Mr. Councilman Edwards everything is fine and that he was focusing his energy on the school board because that is where the problems are.
Councilman Edwards then replied, “That’s what I want to talk to you about”. “Why are you so hard on us”, asked Councilman Edwards. “Hard on who”? replied Rivers. “The city” answered Councilman Edwards. “I’m not hard on the city,” said Rivers
Rivers then went on to explain to Councilman Edwards about the corruption and lack of oversight in the Mount Vernon School District. Edwards nodded his head in agreement with Mr. Rivers but tried to convince Mr. Rivers if he is elected to the school board, he will not be able to effect change because all of the board members would gang up on him.
Mr. Rivers then began to further explain the corruption taking place in the Mount Vernon City School District. Mr. Rivers explained a situation where School Board Trustee Brenda Crump, elected by the people of Mount Vernon, must put in a F.O.I.L. request to receive information that she is entitled to.
Councilman Yuhanna Edwards was not shocked at the information presented to him by Mr. Rivers. In fact Councilman Edwards responded, “basically that is what is happening to us as council people, they don’t give to us” “That is part of the sickness, we have in the political arena here in the City of Mount Vernon”.
“You are so much on Johnson (Interim Superintendent) and Johnson has been a big help, and Johnson is on her way out”. said Edwards. Mount Vernon Exposed could find no documented evidence on how Johnson has helped the Mount Vernon City School District, but instead was able to compile an extensive list of destructive actions on the part of Johnson that will create financial turmoil for generations to come.
Councilman Edwards also did not mention that Superintendent Judith Johnson tried to illegally discharge a debt of $15K Yuhanna Edwards owed to the Mount Vernon City School District. Johnson provided phony paperwork to school board trustees that showed Councilman Yuhanna Edwards paid off the debt when in fact he didn’t. Johnson only backtracked when an alert school board trustee questioned her about the discharging of the debt.
Councilman Edwards then went on to defend Johnson even further when Rivers explained that Johnson withheld asbestos reports from board members and only released them when the story went public and was picked up by the media. “How does she (Johnson) mitigate that as Superintendent”? Yuhanna then stated that is “the school board members” that should have had the asbestos addressed at Cecil H. Parker Middle School.
Yuhanna Edwards then suggested to Mr. Rivers in so many words that he should give Judith Johnson a “pass” because she is on her way out.
Rivers then explained to Edwards about an allegation that was brought to the attention of Mount Vernon Exposed. Sources informed Mount Vernon Exposed that Jonathan Browne, Principal of Longfellow Middle School, failed his pre-screening drug test and Judith Johnson gave Mr. Browne 30 days to clean up his act and get re-tested, a privilege not afforded to anyone else. Johnson, when contacted by Mount Vernon Exposed to inquire about the allegation, denied that Browne failed a drug test. When Johnson was asked if she would provide written documentation to support her claim, Johnson refused and cited some law protecting the privacy of an employee. How can Johnson invoke a privacy law claim when demanded to provide documentation, but the same privacy law has no bearing when Johnson denied Browne did not fail the drug test?
Johnson went even further to protect her hand picked puppet Jonathan Browne when she called an emergency meeting with the staff and parents at Longfellow Middle School to explain that Jonathan Browne did not fail the drug test. Many teachers at Longfellow Middle School were suspicious of Johnson’s actions and felt there was a cover up taking place.
Councilman Edwards seemed uninterested that River’s informed him that Johnson was hiding behind school board attorneys and was using the attorneys to find ways on how to not release information to the public. Edwards was not also interested in the Johnson’s past as Superintendent in Peekskill, where three guidance counselors personally hired by Johnson in Peekskill are facing criminal charges for changing test scores. As a result of this test score scandal, Johnson was awarded Superintendent of the year. Legal scholars interview by Mount Vernon Exposed said Johnson should be stripped of the award of any of the guidance counselors are convicted of the crimes accused of.
Councilman Edwards many times throughout the conversation told River’s he was right and that he “dots every I and crosses every T”.
Councilman Yuhanna Edwards further validated what many watchdog and citizen advocacy groups have been saying for over two decades; that the black churches and City Hall politicians have a tight grip on the school district and continue to meddle in school district business.
The interview with Councilman Edwards, which last about 49 minutes, did not end before Councilman Edwards enlightened Mount Vernon Exposed to other ‘topics of interest’.
Councilman Edwards told Mount Vernon Exposed that they should investigate Mount Vernon City Councilwoman Deborah Reynolds and her politics. “That woman is something else…she is a Republican”. According to the Westchester County Board of Elections, Deborah Reynolds is a registered Democrat.
Councilman Edwards also suggested in the interview “Richardson is making off of this and what not”. Councilman Edwards was referring to Rev. Franklyn Richardson of Grace Baptist, the mastermind that spearheaded the group CEPA, an organized charged by many with the destruction of Mount Vernon Exposed and the astronomical property taxes residents currently face.
During the past election for Westchester County Executive, Richardson formed the group, ‘Democrats for Astorino’. Richardson was upset that Westchester Democratic Party Bosses chose not to go with former Westchester County Board chairman Ken Jenkins as their pick for County Executive. Richardson thought the status quo did not pick Jenkins because he was African-American, so he informed a coalition with various elected officials and community leaders to ensure a victory for incumbent County Executive Robert Astorino. Mount Vernon City Councilwoman Deborah Reynolds was part of this “Democrats for Astorino” coalition.
When Mount Vernon Exposed informed Councilman Edwards that Mayor Ernie Davis was secretly supporting Republican Robert Astorino, Edwards responded, “true, true.”
“We as a black run city are not going anywhere and the only one keeping us down is us”. Apparently Councilman Edwards feels that taxpayers should over look the corruption and criminal acts committed by black politicians in this “black run” city.
Councilman Edwards likes to use the race card when it is convenient for him to do so. When a group of residents protested the exorbitant tax increase just recently approve by Edwards, Edwards suggested that they were part of the tea party, a tactic used by many black political leaders to instill fear in their black constituents. Black leaders tell their black constituents that candidates that they oppose are linked to the tea party and will cut their social service programs if they are elected.
Councilman Edwards criticizing of politicians didn’t stop there. Edwards went on to state that Westchester Democratic Chairman Reginald Lafayette was weak, and this was the reason Mount Vernon wasn’t respected anymore in the political arena. Edwards told Mount Vernon Exposed that David Ford, long considered to be the godfather of Mount Vernon politics, ruled with an iron fist and that the politics in the City of Mount Vernon fell apart because Mr. Lafayette was too busy with County business and neglected Mount Vernon politics.
Mount Vernon Exposed reached out to Mr. Lafayette about Mr. Edwards’s accusations. Mr. Lafayette stated they simply weren’t true and that Councilman Edwards “didn’t know what he was talking about”. Mr. Lafayette also informed Mount Vernon Exposed that Councilman Edwards did not come into politics under the David Ford era but entered the political arena under Chairwoman Serepher Conn Halevi’s leadership.
Councilman Edwards also mentioned that former Mayor Clinton Young was responsible for destroying the party by having former Democratic Party 2nd Vice Chairman Ron Detras rearrange district leaders into districts so Clinton Young and his band of cronies can control the weighted vote.
After ranting about the destruction of politics in the City of Mount Vernon, Councilman Edwards then suggested that Mount Vernon Exposed keep him informed and let him know information as stories and corruption in the City of Mount Vernon is made public. Mount Vernon Exposed has brought matters of corruption to the City Council while Mr. Edwards was President and nothing was ever investigated, instead city officials because a little wiser in covering up their acts of corruption.