The ticket-fixing D.C. Council member was Harry Thomas Jr.

November 27, 2012

(Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Last week, I highlighted an Inspector General report that fingered a former D.C. Council member who had his chief of staff contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in a bid to void 10 of his personal tickets. The precise identity of the ex-legislator remained a mystery until today, when the Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed that the mystery council member was none other than now-jailed Ward 5 Democrat Harry Thomas Jr.

The request from Thomas’s chief of staff went to DMV Director Lucinda Babers on Jan. 25, 2011, asking her to dismiss 10 tickets under a law exempting council members from some parking regulations while on official business, according to the report. The request was passed to a hearing examiner, who dismissed six of the tickets but sustained four others. Three of those were moving violations.

Later, the District’s Department of Public Works, which writes most parking tickets, included another one of Thomas’s tickets — for “failure to report to inspection” — on a “void report” sent to the DMV, and it was subsequently dismissed.

DMV spokeswoman Vanessa Newton explained Tuesday that all the dismissals were lawful:

While on official business, Councilmembers are exempt from parking tickets written for violations, except those related to safety, which include: parking in a bus stop, driveway, crosswalk, and in front of a fire hydrant. Former Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. received a ticket for “failure to report to inspection,” which DMV mistakenly overlooked adjudicating, and DPW rightly included it in the agency’s void report. The correct process to address the ticket was used by the former councilmember’s chief of staff, DMV, and DPW.

Thomas was unable to comment, as he is now serving a 38-month sentence in an Alabama prison camp for stealing more than $350,000 from city youth programs. He used some of the funds to purchase a luxury Audi SUV, which he may well have used to incur some of his tickets.

His lawyer, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., said last week he did not “have any reason to believe” that Thomas was the council member in question. “I still do not have any personal knowledge that would link the report to Mr. Thomas,” he said Tuesday.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis | November 27, 2012