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D.C. Council member Thomas: More unanswered questions

By Editorial,

A FEB. 7 to-do list for Gerri Mason Hall, then chief of staff to D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), included this: Call attorney Frederick Cooke “re: Requesting a meeting w/ VCG for his client (CM Thomas).”

The reference is to Harry Thomas, the Ward 5 D.C. Council member and ally of the mayor who is under investigation by the city’s attorney general for the suspect management of a nonprofit that raised tens of thousands of dollars. Mr. Cooke told us in the most vehement terms that he never sought to meet with the mayor on behalf of Mr. Thomas and, according to him and administration officials, no meeting ever took place. So the curious notation adds yet another unanswered question to the many surrounding Mr. Thomas.

It has been seven months since issues were first raised about Team Thomas, a nonprofit created by Mr. Thomas in 2000, ostensibly to help the city’s youth. Last fall, when Mr. Thomas (D) was running for reelection, his Republican opponent accused him of operating “a slush fund” under the guise of a nonprofit that was neither registered with the IRS nor in good standing with the D.C. government. Mr. Thomas dismissed the charges as political posturing, said he had nothing to hide and vowed to release a list of donors and expenses within weeks. That was in October. No list has been made public, although Mr. Thomas did disclose last year that the group had raised more than $200,000 since January 2008. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Subsequent months have revealed discrepancies in Mr. Thomas’s account of Team Thomas’s activities and troubling questions about the use of money raised in the name of helping young people. Claims that Team Thomas became dormant when Mr. Thomas joined the council in 2007 proved false, as did the assertion that his council office was not involved in fundraising. We wrote about $2,600 that was solicited from a firm doing business with the city to print and distribute a 2007 report touting Mr. Thomas’s accomplishments in office, and an instance in which Mr. Thomas voted on the council on a matter benefiting a Team Thomas contributor without disclosure. Mr. Thomas has acknowledged that Team Thomas helped finance some of his out-of-town, sports-related travel. Among the issues attracting the interest of the attorney general’s office was the purchase of an Audi sport-utility wagon by another group associated with Mr. Thomas the same year that Team Thomas raised $188,110.

Just as Mr. Thomas had derided the initial questions about Team Thomas as a smear campaign by a political opponent, so did he denigrate the integrity of the probe started by then-Attorney General Peter J. Nickles as payback for his opposition to Adrian M. Fenty, who was mayor at the time. But Mr. Nickles is gone, and the investigation is continuing under Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan. We hope the public gets some answers soon.

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