The judge is waiting, Mr. Thomas

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

D.C. COUNCIL MEMBER Harry Thomas Jr. is under court order to produce information about a questionable nonprofit that bears his name. The deadline is Monday, and it seems to us there shouldn't be any question about a public official complying with a court directive - particularly an elected representative who says he has nothing to hide and has promised openness. Yet Mr. Thomas's lawyer told us that he "doesn't know" whether information sought by the city attorney general's office in its probe of the Team Thomas organization will be forthcoming.

Frederick D. Cooke, attorney for the Ward 5 Democrat, said that a variety of options are under consideration. These include appealing last month's ruling by Superior Court Senior Judge Stephen F. Eilperin requiring Mr. Thomas to comply with a subpoena seeking more detailed information about the more than $200,000 raised since January 2008 by Team Thomas. Mr. Thomas could also decide not to produce the documents, thus forcing the city to go back into court for enforcement. Mr. Cooke suggested that perhaps incoming attorney general Irving B. Nathan wouldn't have the same appetite for the investigation as did his predecessor, Peter J. Nickles.

We certainly hope that is not the case. There are too many unanswered questions about the nonprofit that was created by Mr. Thomas in 2000 purportedly to help the city's youth and which Mr. Nickles concluded unlawfully solicited donations. When his opponent in the November election first raised questions about the group, Mr. Thomas said that it had been dormant since he joined the council in 2007. That turned out to be incorrect: In fact $216,159 was raised during the past three years, including $188,000 collected in 2008. Mr. Thomas said that his council office was not used for fundraising, but e-mails showed that a top aide solicited a contribution and directed the check be sent to Mr. Thomas's Wilson Building council office.

There are other discrepancies. The Post's Tim Craig and Mike DeBonis reported on Oct. 15 Mr. Thomas's assurance that he was compiling a list of donors and expenses and would make it public in "the coming weeks." Mr. Thomas and his other attorney, John Ray, made the same promise to us, but - to date - it remains unfilled. What we do know about about those who contributed raises another set of concerns. Mr. Thomas, for example, voted in support of legislation that directly benefited one of the contributors to Team Thomas, but never disclosed that conflict. We recently learned that in May 2008, CareFirst, then in a contentious battle with the city over use of its surplus, received a request from Mr. Thomas to help sponsor a sports program; it provided $1,000, the lowest sponsorship available in a range that went as high as $10,000 or more. A CareFirst spokesman stressed that the grant was just one of hundreds made to organizations that year.

Mr. Thomas and his attorney have attempted to portray the attorney general's inquiry as politically inspired, payback for Mr. Thomas's support of Vincent C. Gray for mayor. What gets overlooked in that scenario is that two judges have separately upheld the validity of the requests for information. We would urge Mr. Thomas not to delay further in providing the full accounting he promised and that the public has a right to expect.


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