Most Read: Local

Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 06/07/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: June 7, 2011

TODAY IS JUNE 7, 2011 — DAY 157 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

If a few days ago you had to pick which D.C. politics story would be on the front page of Tuesday’s Post, well, you probably would have gone with the one with the combative, sunglasses-wearing guy who said the mayor paid him off. But no: “D.C. suit accuses Thomas of graft,” reads today’s A1. David Nakamura and I report: “D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. intentionally diverted more than $300,000 in public funds intended for youth baseball programs and spent it on a luxury sport-utility vehicle and personal travel, Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan said Monday. In a lawsuit filed in D.C. Superior Court, Nathan alleged that Thomas (D-Ward 5) used the funds for his Team Thomas organizations to purchase a $59,000 Audi SUV and pay for jaunts to Las Vegas and Pebble Beach, Calif. Nathan seeks to force Thomas to repay the city money that he is accused of rerouting to his operation, plus damages and other costs totaling more than $1 million. Thomas denied any wrongdoing.” Yes, a criminal investigation is already underway, and, yes, this is the latest and most brazen political allegation in a city full of them these days. The immediate challenge belongs to Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown. He must decide whether and how to sideline Thomas, who is refusing to relinquish his seat or his committee chair while the allegations are resolved. In a statement late Monday, Brown said he would meet with colleagues today before forming a “plan of action.”

AFTER THE JUMP — Post editorial calls on Thomas to resign — the Sulaimon circus — the man in sunglasses — redistricting plan redrawn

*** MAIN COURSE ***

TOMMY’S $60,000 AUDI — The most damning portions of Nathan’s lawsuit allege that Thomas quietly directed funds to the Langston 21st Century Foundation, which then in turn cut checks worth $316,000 back to two Team Thomas groups. What then? “On Feb. 8, two days after picking up two checks worth $75,000, Thomas took a cashier’s check to Tischer Audi in Silver Spring, where he used it to buy a 2008 Audi Q7 4.2 Quattro Premium SUV, Nathan alleges. The cashier’s check and a $9,000 trade-in for his Dodge Durango weren’t quite enough to complete the purchase. To pay the $1,074 difference, Thomas used the Team Thomas charity’s debit card. According to Nathan, the vehicle was initially titled under HLT Development, but Thomas had the car retitled in his own name in May 2009. To justify the nearly $60,000 apparently spent on the Audi, a report provided to the Children and Youth Investment Trust included an invoice for $58,472 worth of training equipment. Langston 21, according to the lawsuit, saw none of that equipment.” The Examiner’s Freeman Klopott has a timeline showing how money allegedly went from the city coffers to HTJ’s sweet ride. Thomas and attorney Fred Cooke, incidentally, rolled up to their Wilson Building news conference in said Audi.

EDITORIAL — The Post editorial page, long suspicious of the Team Thomas doings, weighs in: “Mr. Nathan, who inherited a politically charged investigation involving an ally of Mayor Vincent C. Gray, is to be commended for his vigorous inquiry; he is insisting on repayment of the city’s money plus penalties. He demurred when asked if he thought Mr. Thomas should resign, saying that’s up to his colleagues and constituents. He made clear, though, that he considered Mr. Thomas’s actions a violation of the public trust. His referral to the U.S. attorney’s office, which had started its own investigation, is an indication that criminal charges are a possibility. Mr. Thomas says he won’t resign from the council; clearly, he should reconsider. But, then, that would require him to show something that has been sadly lacking from his council tenure: consideration for the people he is supposed to serve.”

MORE TEAM THOMAS — Jack Evans to WRC-TV: “Between the mayor, the chairman and a number of my colleagues who are under some kind of investigation, it really doesn’t make the city look good.” More on Team Thomas from Examiner, AP, WaTimes, WAMU-FM, WTTG-TV, WUSA-TV, WJLA-TV, WTOP

SULAIMON SPEAKS — Oh, right, that other story: Sulaimon Brown made his long awaited appearance before the D.C. Council yesterday, and it was, well, everything you might have expected and more. Nikita Stewart reports in the Post: “Brown — sporting dark shades and a defiant attitude at a raucous D.C. Council hearing — directly implicated Mayor Vincent C. Gray for the first time Monday in allegations that the Gray campaign paid Brown to disparage then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in last year’s primary race. ‘The mayor is a crook,’ Brown told council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), the chairwoman of the committee investigating the Gray administration’s hiring practices. ‘Everyone knows you’re running a sham.’ ... It was one of many provocative pronouncements that Brown made during his long-awaited appearance before the council, which went to court last week to compel his testimony. Beginning with his refusal to remove his sunglasses, Brown managed to draw the ire of the entire dais, calling one council member a racist, implying another wasn’t qualified for her job as a law professor and interrupting just about everyone who questioned him.”

SULAIMON SCENE — Nikita: “It was predicted to be a circus, and it didn’t fall far short. Inexplicably testifying while wearing mirrored sunglasses that he refused to remove, Brown often turned the tables on council members, asking them questions. He declined to answer questions that might implicate him, such as what he did with alleged cash and money orders that he did not deposit into his campaign bank account. ... Then there there were the rhetorical bombs Brown lobbed. He called council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) a “racist.” He questioned Cheh’s legal knowledge as a law professor and challenged her impartiality. And as Barry tried to defend Gray, Brown questioned the integrity of the city’s elected officials, among them Barry. ... ‘You don’t even have the tags on your car,’ Brown told Barry, referring to problems with the license plates on Barry’s Jaguar. ‘You got locked up by the same FBI I’m talking to.’ Losing his cool, Barry said, ‘You’re out of your goddamn mind.’”

THOSE SUNGLASSES — The Post’s Marc Fisher meditates on the sunglasses: “Brown was the classic reluctant witness — he forced the council to subpoena him before he would speak at all — but once he arrived, he alternated between combative truculence and an eagerness to talk that had council members struggling to get him to cut his answers short. ... In the end, several council members who questioned Brown concluded that his story was somehow fishy. The shades were at least part of the basis for that skepticism. ... Brown insisted on keeping his shades on, even after Cheh, chairman of the council committee investigating the allegations of corruption in the Gray campaign, asked him to remove them. Over the course of the past century, ‘sunglasses became the symbol of, pretty much in this order, the rich, the famous, the cool and the psychotic,’ fashion critic Hadley Freeman wrote in her 2008 book, ‘The Meaning of Sunglasses.’ ... The idea, Freeman argues, is that by denying others the chance to look into their eyes, those who don shades — especially of the impenetrable variety that Brown chose — are trying to frighten their audience, to ‘cultivate hostility.’ If that was Brown’s motive — conscious or not — he succeeded splendidly.”

WHY THE SHADES? — “Just the way I’m feeling right now,” Brown told me.

MORE — Alan Suderman writes at Loose Lips: “Cheh showed her hand from the get-go, asking Brown to remove his sunglasses when testifying and doing nothing when he refused. From then on, it was clear that Brown had a wide berth to do and say as he pleased. He called both Cheh and Councilmember David Catania ‘delusional,’ mocked Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry for his drug arrest, and kept sniping at councilmembers for interrupting him. The councilmembers weren’t much better themselves, letting themselves get drawn into any number of petty squabbles with Brown. Catania mocked Brown’s current unemployment, while Barry told Brown, ‘You out of your goddamn mind.’ Oh, and some woman was escorted out after she started screaming about how unjust the District government is. So all in all, probably the best hearing of the year.” Also Examiner, WaTimes, TBD, WAMU-FM, WRC-TV, AP, WTTG-TV, WUSA-TV, WTOP. Also: Do check out fab photos from the Post’s Linda Davidson and from City Paper’s Darrow Montgomery

REDISTRICTING MAP REDRAWN — Nearly lost among yesterday’s hubbub: A revised redistricting plan was released, one that keeps the Rosedale and Hill East neighborhoods in Ward 6, while handing the Reservation 13 redevelopment site to Ward 7. Mark Segraves notes that the D.C. Jail will now be in Ward 7. Lydia DePillis analyzes at Housing Complex: “That’s half-victory for Hill East residents, who argued strongly that they ought to keep the large campus slated for eventual redevelopment in their ward. It’s also a big loss for Kingman Park, which not only stays in Ward 7, but also loses the companionship of two other entire neighborhoods, leaving it a minority voice in Ward 7 affairs.” WBJ’s Michael Neibauer writes regarding Reservation 13: “The compromise means Alexander gets ward oversight of one of the District’s largest, highest-profile projects. And Wells gets to keep several thousand constituents who live between 17th and 19th streets SE, while giving up the jail and social services on Reservation 13 — the source of persistent community complaints.” Note also that Shaw will remain in Ward 6, and the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue SE, from the Anacostia River to Minnesota Avenue will now be in Ward 7. Also DCist and the Georgetown Dish, which explains how redistricting is like Jack Evan’s Brady Bunch family situation.

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Read Gray’s Post live chat (Post)

DCPS moves toward adopting a curriculum (D.C. Schools Insider)

How Wal-Mart could transform D.C.’s eastern corner (Housing Complex)

Bruce-Monroe Elementary tries the Singapore approach to math (Post)

Mary Cheh says 70 percent of tax-exempt bond holders are in Ward 3 (news release)

DCPS agrees to reinstate, reimburse blind teachers (Examiner)

More details emerge about cop accused of killing girlfriend and daughter (Post)

Council bill “could help parties trying to collect on foreign money judgments” (Legal Times)

Park Police shoot gun-wielding man on Hains Point (Crime Scene)

Gabe Klein getting good reviews in Chicago (Clout City)

How Cathy Lanier makes $250,000 a year (City Desk)

Where’s the D.C. government’s leadership on climate change? (Housing Complex)

Metro says it needs more escalator technicians (Examiner)

For Bikeshare system in search of balance, stick might accompany carrot (GGW)

Eleanor Holmes Norton: Please dance on the Mall, legally (The Buzz)

Police collar kids preying on Metropolitan Branch Trail users (WUSA-TV, GGW)

Budget cuts mean less mental health care for city youth (DCFPI)

”D.C., the Economic Superstar” (Atlantic)

Fenty to speak to local Harvard Club about education reform (blog)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray launches “One City Review,” 1:30 p.m. in JAWB G-9; signs sister city agreement with Rome, 4:30 p.m. in JAWB ceremonial mayor’s office; attends Latino Student Fund “Showcase of Scholars,” 7 p.m. at Inter-American Development Bank, 1330 New York Ave. NW; attends Jazz at Lincoln Center event, 8 p.m. at Turkish Ambassador’s Residence, 1606 23rd St. NW; attends Capital Pride Heroes Gala, 8:30 p.m at House of Sweden, 2900 K St. NW — D.C. Council legislative meeting, to be followed by Committee of the Whole meeting on redistricting, 10 a.m. in JAWB 500

By  |  10:00 AM ET, 06/07/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company