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New York suburb spirals into chaos with dueling mayors and a police commissioner jailed on first day of work

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Chaos is engulfing a New York suburb, where it’s not clear who is mayor and the city’s possible police commissioner was arrested.

Mayor Richard Thomas pleaded guilty July 8 to fourth-degree attempted grand larceny and second-degree offering a false statement, and agreed to resign as Mount Vernon’s mayor by Sept. 30, reported the Daily Voice.

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The City Council voted unanimously two days later to remove Thomas from office immediately and gave him 24 hours to vacate his office at City Hall.

City Council President Andre Wallace was named interim mayor, and Councilwoman Janice Duarte was named the council president.

However, Thomas has insisted he remains mayor, even after Wallace unofficially took over that job on July 12.

“The City Council’s illegal coup d’etat confirms there is an organized effort to undermine democracy in Mount Vernon and hide the truth about the ‘undocumented’ $95 million in loans by past administrations,” Thomas said. ”These are the same people that won’t vote for garbage trucks nor toilet paper for seniors, yet they illegally anoint themselves as mayor. Get ready for another waste of time and money on unnecessary litigation.”

The two maybe-mayors have been at odds ever since, and even city employees aren’t sure who’s in charge of Mount Vernon.

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Wallace reappointed former police commissioner Shawn Harris as commissioner of public safety, which puts him in charge of the police department.

But Thomas ordered his arrest Tuesday on trespassing charges after Harris showed up for his first day of work at the police station.

“This is the worst day of my adult life!” Harris said as he left the jail after spending about nine hours there. “And it’s been the worst first day of work that I ever had!”

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Harris was deputy commissioner for parking when Thomas appointed him acting police commissioner in the spring 2016, and he was then named commissioner in January 2018.

However, Thomas unexpectedly removed Harris from his position in March and temporarily replaced him with Mount Vernon police Lt. Robert Scott.

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Thomas, who was accused last year of stealing more than $12,000 from his campaign committee, claims that his plea agreement to misdemeanor charges permits him to remain mayor until the end of September.

“This is a fight against dirty politics,” Thomas said, arguing that his agreement with the attorney general’s office supersedes the City Council’s authority. “I said okay to the attorney general saying Sept. 30.”

Thomas insists he’s the victim of a vast conspiracy, and he claims he was pressured to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit.

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“I plead to it because I had two young children, a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old, and I did not trust I would get a fair trial,” he said.

Thomas, who fined $13,000 and sentenced to a conditional discharge for one year, suggested that he absent-mindedly spent donors’ money on restaurant meals, vacations and a Chanel purse.

“I’m 30-something years old, I’m putting stuff on my credit card, I’m not rich like Chelsea Clinton, I don’t have it,” he said. “I’m a poor kid from the South Side of Mount Vernon, so I used everything I had.”


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‘Blow up the phones’: Demands that #BoltonMustTestify surge after new Trump’s Ukrainian aid freeze

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A day after Democratic lawmakers demanded that former National Security Adviser John Bolton testify in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, grassroots political action groups urged the American public to call their representatives and add their voices to the call for a fair trial.

"Hearing from first-hand witnesses in the Senate trial is now a necessity," tweeted the progressive group Stand Up America. "Call your senators now and demand a fair trial."

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World of slime: Here’s why President Trump likes to hang out with bottom-feeders and crooked lawyers

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Donald Trump has been a real estate developer, a TV show host, a casino owner, a politician and more. But through it all, there has been one constant: Trump has surrounded himself with sleazy characters. Oddly enough, those are exactly the people who helped propel him to becoming the 45th president of the United States.

That's the thesis of the new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters Michael Rothfeld and Joe Palazzolo, titled aptly enough, "The Fixers: The Bottom-Feeders, Crooked Lawyers, Gossipmongers, and Porn Stars Who Created the 45th President." I spoke with Rothfeld during a recent edition of Salon Talks about the book, a veritable encyclopedia of the unsavory characters that have made Trump who he is, alongside some new reporting.

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How corporate lawyers made it harder to punish companies that destroy electronic evidence

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In the early 2000s, a series of civil lawsuits against giant corporations illustrated the disastrous consequences that could ensue if a defendant failed to provide electronic evidence such as company emails or records. In one suit against tobacco giant Philip Morris in 2004, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler concluded that the company deliberately deleted troves of emails that contained incriminating information. She fined the company $2.7 million for the breach, levied $250,000 fines against each of the company supervisors found culpable and barred them from testifying at the trial.

Big corporations rallied for changes and got them. In 2006, the rules that govern federal litigation were changed to create a “safe harbor” that would protect companies from consequences for failing to save electronic evidence as long as they followed a consistent policy and, when put on notice of imminent litigation, preserved all relevant materials.

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