But his most interesting comments concern the interplay of race and ethics, a tricky issue that us media hacks sometimes find uncomfortable to approach:
Like so many things in this city, that are political, there is a racial component to it. ... We have allegations that Councilmember [Jack] Evans [(D-Ward 2)], white, has misused his constituent services funds. We have allegations that Councilmember Jim Graham, who is white from Ward 1, was aware that a staffmember attempted to bribe him but did not report the bribe and he did not punish the staffmember. That would certainly seem to implicate certain ethical rules that are in the existing law. We have allegations that Harry Thomas stole money from the DC Government and has now had to repay it and he’s a Black from Ward 5. There were allegations that Yvette Alexander, from Ward 7, a Black councilmember, misused constituent services funds; allegations that Michael Brown has been engaged in a conflict of interest in the manner and methods he used to pass online gambling and its relationship to clients he may have lobbied for in his law firm and he’s Black.
Lightfoot goes on to point out that the only members who have publicly called on Thomas to resign are white — Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), David Catania (I-At Large), and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6). He cites “a concern ... in some segments of the Black community in this town to call for the removal of Black politicians will further the gentrification of the city. And as we all know that is a complex issue with emotions on both sides.”
He also identifies a “segment” of the black community “that says ‘yes, maybe [some black politicians] were wrong, but we want to see that the standards are equally enforced.’”
The tricky issue here, though, is that not all of these alleged misdeeds are equally serious, to my mind. The Thomas allegations, in particular, stand apart from the others, not only in the seriousness of the alleged wrongdoing but in terms of the credibility and evidence of the allegations.
Lightfoot doesn’t necessarily agree:
Is the alleged misconduct of Harry Thomas greater than or less than the alleged misconduct of Jim Graham? I don’t know. Were they both engaged in misconduct? The answer is yes. Now if you want to start to make distinctions between them maybe you can. [But] there still need to be an investigation, there needs to be full disclosure. I think some people would say for Harry Thomas there has been the investigation and full disclosure and for others there hasn’t been.