D.C. council member leaves committee

Jessica M. Karmasek Jun. 10, 2011, 1:31pm


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - District of Columbia council member Harry Thomas Jr. says he will step down as chairman of the council's Committee on Economic Development while fighting a lawsuit filed by the D.C. Attorney General's Office.

On Monday, District Attorney General Irvin Nathan announced his office filed a civil enforcement action against Thomas in District of Columbia Superior Court.

The 27-page complaint seeks to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars that the District claims were "unlawfully diverted" from D.C. council-earmarked grants and from charitable donations that were allegedly used by Thomas for his personal or political benefit -- including the purchase of a luxury SUV, golfing vacations and the publication of a brochure extolling his public service.

"We cannot tolerate the diversion of any of our scarce District resources, particularly by those who would use their positions of trust and influence to obtain these funds for personal gain," Nathan said in a statement.

The attorney general's complaint alleges that, using the resources of his council office, Thomas obtained largely for his personal use more than $300,000 that had been ear-marked for "youth baseball programs" and solicited -- without a District charitable solicitation license and without a 501(c)(3) organization -- more than $80,000 from private donors for alleged charitable purposes that were never established.

Nathan's office said the District funds were provided by council legislation in 2007 to the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, which at Thomas' direction, passed them to the Langston 21st Century Foundation, which in turn, at Thomas' direction, secretly paid most of the money to Thomas through his for-profit and non-profit corporations.

Much of the money was then spent for the personal benefit of Thomas, the attorney general's complaint alleges, including the use of more than $58,000 to purchase an Audi Quattro Premium SUV, which is titled in Thomas' name.

The Attorney General's Office also alleges that Thomas knowingly made or caused to be made false statements, conspired with others to commit fraud, violated the District's charitable solicitations law and regulations, and was unjustly enriched.

D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown announced Thomas' decision Wednesday evening.

"I have accepted his request," Brown said, according to The Washington Times.

According to the Times, Thomas' duties as head of the committee now will be assumed by the council's Committee of the Whole. This will continue, the newspaper said, until the end of the council's summer recess.

The Attorney General's Office is seeking a monetary judgment for the District against Thomas for more than $1 million, which includes treble damages for the $316,000 taken from the earmark by Thomas' corporations, plus civil penalties, attorneys' fees and costs and an injunction against future charitable solicitations by Thomas.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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