Council member Harry Thomas misses deadline to repay a portion of funds to D.C.

January 3, 2012

D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. missed a deadline Tuesday to repay the District a portion of the $300,000 in city funds he is alleged to have diverted from youth sports programs.

In July, Thomas settled a civil lawsuit filed by D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan alleging that he had steered the funds through groups he controlled to a variety of personal expenditures, including golf trips and a luxury sport-utility vehicle. He did not admit wrongdoing, but the settlement agreement required Thomas (D-Ward 5) to deliver a $50,000 cashier’s check to Nathan’s office “on or before” Dec. 31. Because that day fell on a long holiday weekend, the deadline was extended until close of business Tuesday.

No check was received as of Tuesday evening, said Ted O. Gest, a spokesman for Nathan.

An attorney for Thomas, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., declined to comment on the payment. “We’re working on meeting the terms of that agreement,” he said.

The missed payment comes a month after agents from the Internal Revenue Service and FBI raided Thomas’s home in connection with the allegations, which Nathan’s office referred to federal prosecutors for criminal investigation.

When Thomas signed the civil settlement, he paid an initial installment of $50,000, and he committed to making additional payments of $50,000 twice yearly through the end of 2013. Thomas also agreed not to start or operate a charity or otherwise solicit charitable contributions through 2016.

If Thomas fails to make payments, the agreement says his private company, HLT Swingaway, would be liable for the shortfall. If the company’s assets are insufficient, then the District is permitted to “use all means available,” including property liens, to recover the money.

“We will not sit idly by if there is no payment,” Nathan said Tuesday. Under the agreement, he said, a failure to pay on time makes the full amount due, and the city will pursue all options to collect “regardless of his situation with either the U.S. attorney or the council.”

Also Tuesday, court papers were made public showing that Thomas agreed to repay the federal government more than $17,277.56 stemming from student loan debt.

According to the filings, Thomas has agreed to make monthly payments of $494.96 to pay off the debt, which he incurred in the 1980s. The Justice Department filed suit in 2006 seeking repayment of two student loans. The agreement said that Thomas owed $5,345.20 in principal on the loans, $7,881.14 in interest and $4,051.22 in legal fees incurred by the Justice Department.

At the monthly rate of $494.96, it will take Thomas nearly three years to repay the debt. In court filings, the Justice Department had indicated it had initially sought nearly $20,000.

That Thomas had reached an agreement with the government became public during a hearing on Dec. 14 in the District’s federal court. Cooke, however, tried to have the actual agreement — and its details — placed under seal, a request that was rejected by U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson.

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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