MOUNT VERNON, NY — May 13, 2019 — On May 10, 2019, City Council President André Wallace addressed the following letter to Mayor Richard Thomas, at the Office of the Mayor, City Hall – Roosevelt Square Mount Vernon, NY 10550
Dear Mayor Thomas:
It has come to my attention that on April 26, 2019, Ms. Fraida Hickson, an employee of the City of Mount Vernon who was appointed as the Deputy Commissioner, Parking Bureau, recently entered a plea of guilty to one count of fraud pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §1029 in United States District Court, Southern District of New York. United States of America v. Fraida Hickson (Case No. 19- CR-293).
I was also advised that Ms. Hickson was suspended with pay, pending the outcome of an investigation. It has been several weeks since the announcement of Ms. Hickson’s suspension. Kindly provide the City Council with the results of your investigation. If your investigation is not complete, kindly advise what prevents you from completing it in a timely manner. Given the relationship of Ms. Hickson to a prominent member of your re-election campaign staff, I would encourage you to carefully consider the implications of not handling this matter so as to avoid all appearance of impropriety.
Separately and without regard to the results of your investigation, Section 30(1)(e) of the New York State Public Officer’s Law requires:
- Every office shall be vacant upon the happening of one of the following events before the expiration of the term thereof:
e. His conviction of a felony, or a crime involving a violation of his oath of office, provided, however, that a non-elected official may apply for reinstatement to the appointing authority upon reversal or the vacating of such conviction where the conviction is the sole basis for the vacancy.
Ms. Hickson’s entering a felony plea of guilty to a violation of 18 U.S.C. §1029 is equivalent to being convicted after a trial. Therefore, as per New York State Public Officer’s Law §30(1)(e), a suspension from her appointment is not permissible, and her office must be vacated immediately. A suspension with pay, likewise, is wholly improper.
To the extent you have a different understanding of the law, I would ask that the Corporation Counsel prepare a memorandum addressing the legal basis for treating Ms. Hickson’s matter in a manner inconsistent with requirements of the Public Officer’s Law.
Further, I would demand that Ms. Hickson resign from her appointment as Deputy Commissioner, Parking Bureau or be terminated immediately, either of which shall be effective as of April 26, 2019.
Any compensation currently being provided by the City of Mount Vernon to Ms. Hickson must terminate immediately and any pay received for services after April 26, 2019 must be returned to the City.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.
City Council President
Cc: City Council
Comptroller Deborah Reynolds
Mt. Vernon Board of Ethics
Office of the Westchester County District Attorney
Office of the United States Attorney, Southern District of New York Office of the New York State Attorney General