Dear PoP – Another City Councilmember on the (SUV) hot seat

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

“Dear PoP,

I know you generally try to avoid discussing politics and politicians on your blog but I desparately want to know if your other readers are similarly outraged by the latest revelations about a DC City Councilmember. The City’s Office of Attorney General filed an enforcement action in D.C. Superior Court today against Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas. The complaint contains absolutely incredible allegations and is worth reading; it can be read in its entirety here.

The complaint alleges that Thomas diverted more than $300,000 earmarked for youth baseball programs in Washington, D.C. for his own personal benefit, including a trip to Pebble Beach, trips to casinos, airplane tickets, spending cash, a $690 tab at Love nightclub and a $60,000 Audi SUV. According to the complaint, Councilmember Thomas generated fake invoices and lied about staging sports workshops and camps for the City’s youth. I thought the city council had reached a new low with Councilmember Kwame Brown ordering a second $2,000/month, City-leased luxury SUV because he disliked the interior color of the first. But now we have a Councilmember allegedly stealing money for kids’ recreational activities so that he can buy a luxury SUV? I think Dante saved a special circle for people like this.

All this when the City has been facing a several hundred million dollar deficit. What are we supposed to do?”

89 Comment

  • I suppose we could run for office…

    • JAIL!!!!

      It looks like they will take him for over $1million when all is said and done though. Still I would love to see him serve some time as an example to the rest of the criminals that we have elected to our city council.

  • Dont blame me, I voted McDuffie.

  • In his defense. He was taking out the former mayor of Baltimore for dinner on some giftcards for the homeless.

  • This will not change until the makeup of DC shifts to majority white. Last census was 50% African American, down from 75% in 2000, so its almost about to happen.

    Look at the circus the council meeting was yesterday with the Suliman (sp?) guy who refused to take off his sunglasses, and this guy ran for Mayor. As long as the poor blacks have the majority they will continue to vote in their surrogates.

    • Exactly! Good thing there’s no corrupt white politicians!

    • Yes because white people are never corrupt, apparently you’ve never been to Illinois.

    • Cant trust those coloreds to govern, huh?

      What backwater hillbilly town did you spend most of your life? Why did you leave?

    • andy

      people can vote for candidates who represent them; they don’t have to be corrupt.

      nothing says voting for people who will represent you means that your elected officials will give public money to their girlfriends, get themselves sweet SUVs, play crony with their golf buddies, give high-paying jobs to politically useful incompetents or avoid licensing or tax payments.

      I think we have plenty of proof from across the country and the world that corruption doesn’t correspond with race or class.

      Just to propose one example (and not to endorse anyone) Yvette Alexander and Marion Barry probably vote a lot alike and share similar wards. But I haven’t yet seen the story where Yvette Alexander is involved in cronyism or can’t figure out how to pay yearly obligations to the federal or city government.

      • Actually, there is no where in the World as corrupt as some countries in Africa. Similarly, there are no cities more poorly run than the majority black cities in the US. Political correctness is one thing. The truth is another. I’m black. I am in no ways offended by the truth.

        • yeah, but it’s still a ridiculous way to define the conversation.

        • Last time I checked the US was being run by a black man…

          I don’t get what you are trying to say, black people can’t govern effectively? By that logic, because YOU are black, we can assume you are too dumb to formulate an intelligent opinion. Which may be the case, but its not because of your skin color.

        • The town of Bell, Calif., strike a bell with you at all? That was run by white people.

          The thing is, a lot of majority black cities also happen to be large urban areas with major media so they get a lot of attention. Trust me, I used to live in white suburbia, USA and they were corrupt as hell. It’s just that the power structure is such, they don’t get caught. Or when they do, it’s a town that doesn’t get a whole lot of press outside the area. Look up Sunrise, FL and Mayor John Lomelo. Or the whole history of Broward County, Fl. Actually the whole history of just about any damn county or town in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott is just the most recent example!

          DC council members are amateurs by comparison.

      • Then you must have missed this story about how CM Alexander’s being investigated for misuing constitutent service funds:

        There are corrupt policians of every race and class and at every level of government.

      • You haven’t done much reading if you haven’t heard the rumors swirling around Yvette.

    • You’re right, we’d be much better off with some white guy like Blagojovich in charge. Because white people never commit white-collar crimes.

    • Yeah, Jim Graham and Jack Evans are so honest and upright and not corrupt at all.


  • There’s the term “shanda for the goyim”, which means “bad jewish person who did something stereotypically bad for which goys will judge all jews”.

    Do we have a similar term meaning about DC elected officials reinforcing negative stereotypes about their ilk? ‘Cause we should.

    • Right on. The corruption has got to go. That we have elected official with ties to organized crime managing areas of the city replete with gangsters, guns, and violence, and now this, come on folks. Let’s clean house!

      Thomas should resign. Gray and Brown aren’t far behind.

    • I think “Business as usual” would be appropriate.

  • Bullshit. This is about being able to get away with it for years. Regardless of the deficit situation, stealing is stealing. When a culture of privilege and graft has been unchallenged, people think they can get away with it, regardless of race. I would say it’s more generational. It’s time for reformers to use the media, US Attorney and the recall process in order to make this shift.

  • Scandals don’t hurt dc politicians. He’ll be reelected.

    • I disagree. What happened in the past isn’t the only path for the future.

      Stealing $300k from kids is damning. There’s not a demographic in DC that’ll accept this. I can see the appeal of Barry’s drug use — it humanizes him. This isn’t like that. This is way worse than cronyism, which I think many people are quietly OK with. This is straight up thievery. Mother fucker orchestrated an elaborate scheme of lies and deceit to steal money from kids. In terms of criminality if not profile, this is the DC scandal of the year.

  • i’m not outraged because i expect very little integrity in my elected officials.

    • Sadly, this – I’ve long since given up paying attention to (or voting for members of) the council … too much evidence over too many years that corruption and dishonesty are part of the job description. That isn’t going to change.

  • This is serious stuff and, when added to the Kwame Brown SUVgate, is starting to make the Council look bad.
    This seems like a golden opportunity for a Councilmember to step up and introduce sweeping reform legislation. No more holding second jobs, no city vehicles for Councilmembers, no earmarks guided by councilmember whims…

    • at what point did the council look good?

    • To correct you, the kwame brown suv thing was basically meaningless.

      What Thomas is accused of could lead to multiple felony charges.

      • You are talking legality, I am referring to politics. What may not be illegal may still be fatal in the public eye. Just look at the furor over that New York Congressman and his photos. But who would on the council would be brave (stupid?) enough to challenge their fellow council-members’ perks and ban some of these practices.

    • It’s not at all clear to me that the second jobs are a problem. In fact, the council members with second jobs seem less likely to be involved in scandals (perhaps because they make enough money from their second jobs that they don’t feel any need to cheat on taxes/steal from the city/get fully loaded SUVs/etc).

      • You need to read more. HTJ has a second job as a consultant to the gaming industry as he was creating a bill to legalize gaming.

        Similar things with Evans.

        • It seems like a good conflict-of-interest rule would take care of that issue, rather than a blanket prohibition on second jobs.

  • Although I’ll never truly be one, I should maybe register as a Democrat just so I can vote in DC primaries.

    • Ya think?

      • I am a democrat. Yet I find that In DC my policies and beliefs align greatly with the “republican” candidates here. Which would be considered far leftists 2 hours down the road in richmond.

        • I have struggled with this as well. With the way the national Democratic party leans currently, I could never bring myself to register, but it more or less nullifies my voting rights in this city. Where is the fiscally responsible, transparent, business friendly libertarian candidate who can appease the social liberals in this city who still would like to see it run properly?

  • Dissapointing that this city is devoid of quality leadership. How someone like Brown, Thomas and Barry can get (r)elected is beyond me.
    Any staff member of Thomas that allowed/supported/or otherwise made this criminal activity possible should also be included in this trial. They should also be barred for city employment for life.
    Can’t expect citizens to behave if those in City Hall flaunt the law.
    It is people like this that make getting voting rights or statehood all that much more difficult.

  • I think this is a different type of outrage than the others. First, $300,000 was a heck of a lot more money than either SUV-gate or Sulaimon Brown’s 3 weeks of salary. Second, it happened a few years ago, not connected to the change in Mayoral administrations. Weird that Fenty and Thomas were rivals, yet the city still got hosed. Third, it was an earmark, which the council itself has now eliminated. That’s a good thing. Third, both Mayor’s attorney generals have pursued the case. Another good thing. Best of all, it does look like this outrage will lead to a criminal and financial resolution, which ought to be some satisfaction in the end.

    So stupid.

    • But mphs, its so much easier just to blame corrupt black politicians and the DC culture of corruption (which is, by the way, ONLY unique to the District) then to review the facts of this case!

      Snark aside, you are right that this is going to be Jr’s Waterloo. No matter what some here may believe, Ward 5 (of which I am now a resident) is NOT going to reelect this crook. No matter what you think of style Democratic machine politics, his father Harry Sr. (who held that seat during the 90’s) was so beloved in large part of the way he doled out city funds and services to his constituencies for rec centers, youth sports leagues, neighborhood associations, etc.

      Stealing $400,000 from children’s sports spits in the face of his Dad’s legacy in that Ward and (in my opinion) would be reflected by the voters should he not resign or be convicted before the next election.

  • Thomas is done. The only question is how much longer he’ll hold out for, prolonging his and our pain.

  • So, back to the original question – When can we start a legitimate recall ballot?

    Recall: Brown, Gray, Thomas, & Orange.

    (Orange did something, iono don’t yet know what, but I know he did.)

    • Or what about just thomas? since you know, he’s the only who has been alleged to be participating in illegal conspiracies and actions.

      • me

        No, Gray can be put in that group too, because while he hasn’t “participated in illegal conspiracies and actions” (though, we’ll see, since in the testimony it was said that he was funnelling money to other campaigns and candidates for living expenses) that he hasn’t done a damn thing otherwise. And that’s a big reason why people want him out.

        • I don’t know who is guilty or innocent, and I don’t think it matters. All those who have been implicated should be recalled – send a strong message.

          My list is incomplete. Head over to dcist for the full list of council-folk in need of removal.

        • You do realize that the threshold for something to be criminal is higher than a bunch of people not liking it, right?

          Jesus, it was just a few short months ago that everyone was willing to sweep Fenty’s transgressions under the rug. Oddly, now, allegations from the possibly insane warrant a recall.

          • No one actually proved Fenty did anything wrong. All his scandals turned out to be hot air or already approved by the City Council.

            Firetrucks, parks and rec, all approved or non-issues when the facts came out.

      • Throw in Kwame’s atrocious campaign finance operation too. Thats criminal.


      Even if we got the 10000 signatures, the board has it timed in such a way that a recall would never work because it’s be election time again.

  • To be on the counsel you should only make $50K a year and HAVE to live in Park Morton (it would be like our very own White House). Also you’d have to take public transportation. That way we would know that our officials weren’t in it for the money.

    • so if we elect people that are already living there the city be be corruption free?

    • They would still have the power and influence, which is just as bad as money. The salary wasn’t enough for him so he used his power to (illegally) procure more income.

      I imagine the Park Morton buses would all of a sudden run on a precise schedule and come equipped with flat screens and iPads…

  • If the allegations are true, I’d say prison would be appropriate.

  • I can understand all the trips and the $690 tab at Wet, but the SUV is way over the limit.

    • Putting the title in his name was really dumb – can’t explain that away.

    • ah

      How are the trips legitimate? Is he such a good gambler that the taxpayers should be sponsoring him to win their money back plus some action?

  • In free elections, people get the government they deserve…

    • Assuming people have god-like prescience, which they do not. No one can see the future or into the minds of candidates.

      • We knew they were dirtbags when they got elected. There were about 25000 of us that tried to stop that. Were you one?
        At least Bowser has stayed out of the fray. I thought for sure she’d be devoured by the rest of the council once Fenty left. Seems she’s the only clean one. I bet she’ll still get voted out because she was for Fenty. . .

      • Actually most of this was foreshadowed in the papers. People have their head in the sands, as usual.

        • “Chance of a scandal” =/= “scandal”. After the fact, nothing is easier to say you knew it was true all along, when in fact, at the time you only knew there was a chance it was true.

          I was not a HT voter, but I don’t necessarily blame those who did vote for him. I think those folks just were willing to give the benefit of the doubt in order to keep a starry eyed view of their idealized candidate.

          • Riiiight.Once a candidate has been dry-humped by Barry, there is no turning back. Starry-eyed nothing. His political career was born of scandal.

        • That’s true, it’s been in the papers a great deal. I’m surprised it took this long to throw the book at him and I was starting to believe they wouldn’t. For more than a year now, he’s been asked to show where all the money went. He kept saying he would, but didn’t.

  • A recall would be good, but it’ll never happen. Too many people will pull some kind of *ist card and rally around the council and mayor, knowing full well how corrupt things are.Only time and demographics will change politics here.

  • I think the punishment for politicians convicted of corruption or immoral crimes should be death.

    We might have a lot of people giving up their seats and leaving office.

  • Governing a COUNTRY is far different than governing a third world country. When you are governing a third world country or an inner city, it is as much about your morals and your desire to do best by your fellow man.
    Harry Thomas was stealing from the kids he purports to love so much.


    Can’t wait to put up my sign on Rhode Island Ave that says “Harry Thomas Junior – He Stole From Your Children and He’ll Steal From You!

  • send him to jail

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