Mount Vernon in a state of emergency over $500K in unpaid bills

The mayor of one of Westchester’s largest cities has declared a state of emergency after its entire fleet of police, fire and garbage vehicles was put out of service due to more than $500,000 in unpaid invoices.

Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard made the declaration Thursday, calling it a “public health and safety crisis that has threatened the public health of the City of Mount Vernon.”

She blamed “gross negligence and dereliction of duty” by Comptroller Deborah Reynolds in failing to “process and pay” the invoices for “critical parts and maintenance of police, fire and public works vehicles.”

“As a result, nearly our entire fleet of vehicles has been impacted by the crisis,” she wrote in the declaration.

Garbage collection had already been canceled for the rest of July, with limited pickup later announced for Saturday after eight trucks were offered on loan from the Big Apple, state Sen. Jamaal Bailey (D-Baychester) said.

Bailey had warned that the city was “in dire straits” with the “potential failure of an emergency system.”

The mayor had posted a video from a depot Wednesday to show why she had to take off the streets the only eight trucks that were even operable.

“The treads are getting ready to come off … the tires are splitting,” Patterson-Howard said. “We cannot continue to risk the lives of our workers,” she said, noting how a city truck had malfunctioned and crashed into a home in 2019.

“It’s a shame that our residents have been placed in this situation due to dereliction of duty and criminal negligence of our elected Comptroller Reynolds,” the mayor tweeted late Thursday.

The comptroller hit back, calling it “false news” that was “defaming” her, and suggesting in a more than 9-minute Facebook video that Patterson-Howard was just trying to deflect from the fact that she was the one “misappropriating” city money.

She accused the mayor of spending the money elsewhere, including huge raises for commissions, calling it a “recipe for disaster.”

Mount Vernon Comptroller Deborah Reynolds
Mount Vernon Comptroller Deborah Reynolds (pictured) faces blame from Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard for alleged “gross negligence and dereliction of duty.”
Tania Savayan/The Journal News

“When she holds them in her office and LIES on the NEWS blaming others, it shows Mt. Vernon needs a responsible Mayor who can do the job,” she wrote.

Officials insisted to NBC that despite the crisis, 911 calls at least would still get answered.

There will be a special city council meeting Friday, at which the mayor said the comptroller will be compelled to pay bills, NBC said.

Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard showed the wearing tread of tires on the inoperable trucks.
Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard showed the wearing tread of tires on the inoperable trucks.
City of Mount Vernon

The mayor has proposed using a significant amount of the $21 million received last month in federal American Rescue Plan funds for new vehicles, but it will likely take months to get them, the Westchester Journal News said.

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