Mount Vernon Buildings Commissioner Had Suspended License When City Gave Him A Car

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Daniel Jones' blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit when he was arrested Tuesday night in New Rochelle. His license also had eight open suspensions since 2017.

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  • Jones had a DUI arrest in New Jersey in 2014, and a disorderly conduct charge from 2013
  • The DUI case is still pending with an active bench warrant for Jones because he failed to appear in court, a court clerk said
  • Mount Vernon officials have refused to explain why Jones was given a city car when his driver's license was already suspended

The Mount Vernon buildings commissioner charged with drunken driving this week was driving a city car even though his license had been suspended for the past two years.

Court records also show that Daniel Jones' blood-alcohol level was 0.25 percent when police tested it, more than three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent for driving while intoxicated in New York.

The spotlight on Jones has uncovered a pattern of failing to pay fines, answer summonses or show up in court on criminal charges. A prior impaired driving charge, driving under the influence  on the New Jersey Turnpike in October 2014, is still pending in Secaucus Municipal Court with an active bench warrant for Jones, a court clerk told The Journal News on Friday.

On Tuesday night, Jones was driving his city-owned 2017 Ford Explorer on Pelham Road in New Rochelle when he allegedly hit a parked car and a tree and nearly hit a pedestrian who had to jump out of the way when Jones drove onto the sidewalk, according to a witness' account to police.

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Mount Vernon Buildings Commissioner Daniel Jones was arrested in New Rochelle on Jan. 8, 2019, on driving while intoxicated charges. (Photo: New Rochelle Police Department)

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When police arrived at 490 Pelham Road they found Jones in the driver's seat.

On a supporting deposition, Officer Jordan Foley checked off several boxes indicating why he believed Jones was intoxicated, including that he showed impaired motor coordination and failed a "field performance test." He found that Jones had an odor of alcohol on his breath and bloodshot eyes, that his speech was slurred, he staggered when he walked and swayed when he stood.

Foley wrote that Jones consented to a breath test, which was administered less than two hours after his arrest. It registered the 0.25 percent blood-alcohol content, according to Foley.

Jones was charged with three misdemeanors, driving while intoxicated, aggravated driving while intoxicated and second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation. He is free on $240 bail and due back in New Rochelle City Court on Feb. 6.

Within hours of the arrest, the car was released by New Rochelle police to a Mount Vernon detective assigned to Mayor Richard Thomas' security detail. A spokeswoman for the mayor and city Police Commissioner Shawn Harris did not respond to questions about where the car was taken and what if any damage it sustained. 

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(front) Thomas Vallely, Dan Jones' lawyer, and Jones walk out of the New Rochelle City Court. (Photo: Jon Bandler/The Journal News)

Jones was hired in May, hailed by Thomas as a "seasoned professional" with private and public sector experience in the utilities, engineering and construction industries for employers like Consolidated Edison, General Electric and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. He has overseen continued efforts to computerize the building department. His salary is $116,040.

Legal troubles for Jones

But Jones has faced financial and legal trouble in recent years, with child support and unpaid taxes piling up, a DUI arrest in New Jersey in 2014 and disorderly conduct and trespass charges that are still pending from a 2013 incident at an Atlantic City casino. 

A court document in Brooklyn raised the question of how much significant employment he has had during that time. 

His hiring in Mount Vernon came at a critical point in his battle to stave off the foreclosure sale of his Brooklyn home. The case has been going on since 2013  and the house in the Bergen Beach neighborhood was slated for auction Sept. 6.

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Two days before that, a judge approved Jones' request for an emergency stay, blocking the sale at least temporarily.

Jones was appealing the foreclosure and cited that as a reason the judge should put the sale on hold. But also, according to the stay request, Jones indicated he had “finally secured permanent employment … after having to return to college following the economic downturn to improve his employment prospect.”

He said the job allowed him to apply for a mortgage modification. It was unclear from court records whether he has gotten one. 

Jones has declined to comment on his legal issues in recent days. A woman who works at the law firm listed as representing him in the Brooklyn foreclosure case said Thursday that he was no longer a client.

Thomas Vallely, Jones' lawyer in the New Rochelle case, did not immediately return a request for comment.

According to a spokesman for the state Department of Motor Vehicles, Jones has eight open suspensions on his driver's license since January 2017.

In 2017, the license was suspended for failure to pay a fine in Brooklyn and failing to answer three summonses, two in Nassau County and one in Brooklyn.

Last year, the license was suspended on four occasions for failing to pay: a "driver responsibility assessment," New York State tax, child support and a fine in Suffolk County.

The spokesman, Tim O'Brien, said Jones did not have a conditional license that would have allowed him to drive for work purposes. 

Emailed questions to Mayor Richard Thomas' spokeswoman, Maria Donovan, and chief of staff, Ned McCormack, about whether the city had checked if Jones had a valid license when he was given a city car when hired in the spring were not answered.

Donovan referred all questions to Vallely, Jones' lawyer.

Twitter: @jonbandler

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