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Harry Thomas Jr.’s silence on charity fundraising speaks volumes

By Editorial,

“DON’T MORAL compasses point AWAY from . . . rushing to judgments? Away from spreading rumor, innuendo and hearsay? . . . Away from kicking someone when they’re down?” Is it any wonder that it is this missive, purportedly from one of his constituents, that D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) decided to pass along to colleagues and other council staff? Ever since questions were first raised about his fundraising for a supposed charity, Mr. Thomas has blamed his troubles on political enemies and vindictive media. This woe-is-me defense seeks to obscure the facts, including that Mr. Thomas has yet to provide an explanation for his activities.

The e-mail forwarded by Mr. Thomas counters calls for his resignation with a reminder of “all the good works” he has done both in and out of office. No doubt there have been contributions, and his roots in the community are indeed deep. But those aren’t the real issues. Rather, this is a matter of the public trust and whether it has been broken. Mr. Thomas has agreed to repay the District government $300,000 he is alleged to have diverted from youth activities to his own personal and political benefit. The settlement contains no admission of wrongdoing. But as even an ally of Mr. Thomas, council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), admitted in a burst of logic: “Personally, I would never agree to repay money if I did not wrongfully spend it.”

In fact, Mr. Thomas at first claimed innocence when D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan brought suit against him for the “willful, intentional and knowing” misuse of public funds. Facing reporters in June, Mr. Thomas said he wasn’t going to even consider taking a settlement because he had done nothing wrong. “I’m willing to risk everything I have,” Mr. Thomas said. He hasn’t explained his reversal, but that’s not the only instance of Mr. Thomas contradicting himself. Back in October, Mr. Thomas promised to disprove allegations that his nonprofit Team Thomas was a slush fund by making public a list of donors and expenses. None was ever forthcoming.

Mr. Thomas — who professes to have an explanation that will prove he has done nothing wrong — has rebuffed every opportunity to do so; his attorney tells us there has been no “appropriate” setting. Before Mr. Nathan filed his lawsuit, the offer was made to depose Mr. Thomas so he could explain these matters on the record. He declined. After the legal complaint was drafted, Mr. Thomas’s attorney was provided with the fact portion and asked to advise if there were any errors or misstated facts. No claims of inaccuracies were reported. And when Mr. Thomas was due to formally respond to the complaint, he first asked for an extension, which was granted, and then settled on the day an answer was required. In short, his continuing silence speaks volumes.

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