Mayor Vincent C. Gray has been reticent to criticize former D.C. Council colleague Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) in the wake of allegations that he sent more than $300,000 in public funds meant for children into his own pocket.

That has continued since Friday’s settlement between Thomas and the District, in which he agreed to repay $300,000 but did not acknowledge wrongdoing or explain why he diverted the funds.

Gray said Tuesday he would continue to “let justice run its course” — a hands-off posture shared by most members of the Council.

But Gray did open up a little more about Thomas and why he’s been reluctant to criticize him in an interview I had with him about Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan , who first leveled the allegations. The interview took place earlier this month, well before the settlement.

Gray said he was surprised by Nathan’s findings, and I asked him if he’d spoken to Thomas about them.

”I’ve not brought up with him, ‘What did you do? Why did you do it?,’” Gray said. “I just couldn’t do that. He to me seems a bit withdrawn at this stage. I don’t hear from him as much as I did. But I picked up the phone a couple of times and called him, because he is a friend. And I’m sorry that this happened, but he is somebody that I’ve known for a very long time, and I just don’t want to dump him out the window.”

”He didn’t say a word about the attorney general or about the investigation,” Gray continued. “He talked more about his personal reaction to it. In fact, the last time I saw him, he said, ‘I guess we all have our ways of compensating. It’s given me a lot of time to do some things around the house that I’ve been putting off; I cleaned up my whole basement today.’ But he never talked about the investigation. He never talked about what the allegations are. He never talked about the findings. He did not talk at all about having any feelings about Irv and his team’s investigation.”

Gray and members of the council are taking much heat right now for not making a stronger declaration about Thomas’ future. But it’s easy to forget, on a 13-member council, friendships both personal and political can run deep.