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Posted at 11:24 AM ET, 11/02/2010

Court orders Thomas to turn over documents

A Superior Court judge on Tuesday ordered D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D- Ward 5) to comply with a subpoena from Attorney General Peter Nickles to provide fundraising information on Thomas's nonprofit.

The judge gave Thomas three weeks to comply -- rather than ordering the documents be handed over immediately, as Nickles had demanded -- expressing concern that the attorney general might be trying to influence the outcome of today's election.

On Monday, Nickles filed a "petition for immediate enforcement" with the D.C. Superior Court over his request for documents on Team Thomas, a nonprofit that Thomas operates. The nonprofit isn't registered with the Internal Revenue Service. Nickles said he wants information on the group's donors and expenditures, which Thomas has not released.

"Since he is not willing to do it voluntarily or by subpoena, we now need a court order, which is extraordinary," Nickles said on Monday. "This is a very unusual situation where a council member has refused to provide a single document."

Thomas's attorney, Frederick D. Cooke, said he would fight Nickles's subpoena, arguing that he does not have the "authority" to demand the documents from a council member.

Cooke, who declined to explain his legal justification that Nickles does not have the authority to issue the subpoena, said Thomas plans to voluntarily release the information. But, he added, Thomas won't do so under pressure from Nickles.

"If it were not for this crazy litigation, he probably would have released it today," Cooke said Monday. "We have never said to Peter and never said to anyone else, this is not information we did not want and did not believe should be public, but we do not believe Mr. Nickles has the authority to do this."

In a letter sent to Nickles last week, Cooke said the investigation into Thomas was politically motivated. Thomas has been a frequent critic of Nickles and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).

"He wants to muscle in and prove to people he has power that I don't think he has," Cooke said.

Nickles scoffs at suggestions that he's being vindictive, arguing that he's merely trying to keep public officials accountable for how they use their offices to raise money.

"Allegations have been made about contributions sought by an entity advertised on (Thomas's) Web site, and we asked for the documents, which is pretty ordinary," Nickles said.

By Washington Post editors  |  11:24 AM ET, 11/02/2010

Categories:  Tim Craig, Tim Craig

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