In the wake of a city worker being arrested last month for allegedly stealing Con Edison property and this morning’s announcement that a Mount Vernon Animal Shelter volunteer was arrested for allegedly stealing puppies from the shelter, the Journal News spoke with Mount Vernon Mayor Clinton Young about the status of Mount Vernon Inspector General Harry Stokes, who would presumably investigate such allegations.
Last week the City Council adopted a 2011 budget that slashed Stokes’ annual salary from $110,000 to $35,000, putting his salary far below his secretary’s pay of $55,000 per year.
That salary modification raises questions about whether Stokes will continue working for the city, despite a state Supreme Court ruling. In August, Justice Joan B. Lefkowitz ruled that the City Council’s efforts to remove Stokes from office were invalid because the efforts infringed on Young’s powers as mayor.
Lefkowitz’s ruling also invalidated the City Council’s reduction last year of Stokes annual salary to $1.
Here’s what Young had to say this morning:
“I’ve received so many calls with reference to the inspector general from people not understaning the motives of the city council and comptroller other than that it being of a political nature.
We cannot have an effective office dealing with fraud and abuse unless we provide the appropriate resources. I think that this goes against what has been decided by the courts.
It is indeed, in my opinion, an infringement upon the executive branch of this government in which the inspector general is appointed by the mayor and serves druing the full term of the mayor.
I also believe that Justice Lefkowitz’s decision was clear in terms that there should be no interference with the operation of that office.”
Where do we go from here?
“We have to again look at options in terms of sitting down with the council, providing them with clear reasoning and hopefully this matter does not wind up in court again.”