Thomas Richards said Tuesday he will resign as Rochester mayor amid uncertainties over his official status. His resignation takes effect Thursday.
The resignation will ensure Richards can run in a special election without violating terms of the Hatch Act, which could jeopardize federal funding, he said.
“I cannot in good conscience continue to serve and run for office with the risk of an adverse Hatch Act finding or the intention to fight such a determination,” Richards said in a statement.
“I came here to help the city and not to hurt it with fines and possible penalties. The possible loss of even one federal dollar is too much to risk.”
A formal complaint has been filed with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel charging City Council has violated the city charter by deciding on a special election to determine a successor to Robert Duffy, who resigned as mayor to become state lieutenant governor.
The complaint was filed by Robert McTiernan, president of Rochester Firefighters Local 1071.
The charter calls for the deputy mayor to act as mayor until the vacancy is filled by a special election or general election, neither of which has occurred, McTiernan said earlier this month.
City Council was scheduled to set a special election date for March 29, but has delayed that decision because of the uncertainty over Richards’ title.
“It is now time that we allow the citizens of Rochester to vote for their next mayor,” Council President Lovely Warren said in a statement Tuesday. “It is imperative that City Council set the date for a special election.”
Richards, who joined the city as Corporation Counsel when Duffy took office in 2006, was appointed deputy mayor last fall and was sworn in as mayor Jan. 1.
The Hatch Act restricts the political activity of individuals principally employed by state or local executive agencies and who work in connection with programs financed by federal loans or grants.
A mayor is exempt from Hatch Act provisions; an acting mayor is not.
Carlos Carballada, the city’s commissioner of neighborhood and business development, will serve as acting mayor.
“While I am not pleased that this is occurring, it greatly eases my mind knowing that Carlos is here for the interim period,” Richards said.
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