D.C. Council member Thomas resigns, will plead guilty

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“I hope this brings some closure so Ward 5 can have the positive attention and representation it deserves,” Mr. Day said Thursday of the charges.

Mr. Thomas agreed in the summer to pay $300,000 to the District after D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan filed a lawsuit against him in June, claiming he used his position to take the funds earmarked for youth sports to purchase a luxury vehicle and pay for trips or other personal expenses.

Mr. Thomas did not admit guilt in the civil settlement, yet the criminal probe against him appeared to escalate with a federal raid on his Northeast home on Dec. 2, in which agents seized a 2008 Chevy Tahoe and a 2008 Victory motorcycle.

Court papers filed Thursday say Mr. Thomas must forfeit both vehicles to the U.S. government. Prosecutors also accuse him of failing to report an aggregate $346,000 in additional income — $25,000 in 2007, $278,000 in 2008 and $43,000 in 2009 — than what was documented in his returns.

“It’s a sad day for the District,” said council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, who called on Mr. Thomas to resign in July. “But it does show we have a procedure for holding people accountable, especially our elected officials.”

Council members Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, and David A. Catania, at-large independent, also asked Mr. Thomas to resign last summer.

On Thursday, council member Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Democrat, who crafted a recently passed ethics-reform bill, joined the chorus of colleagues who said Mr. Thomas must step aside.

The ethics legislation, passed by the council last month, will disqualify an elected official from office if he or she is convicted of a felony — even without jail or prison time — yet the change to the city’s charter must be approved by an act of Congress or by D.C. voters, which could take months.

Mr. Thomas had resisted calls from his colleagues to resign, but his personal staff was advised some time ago to look for new jobs, multiple sources at the John A. Wilson Building said.

Whispers of a plea deal between Mr. Thomas and prosecutors escalated during the week, buttressed by Mr. Thomas‘ absence at the first legislative session of the year on Wednesday morning.

Mr. Thomas was elected to his second term last year with 62 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary and 84 percent in November’s general election. His father, the now-deceased Harry Thomas Sr., represented Ward 5 for three terms.

A special election will take place later in the year. Under D.C. law, ward voters would go to the polls on the first Tuesday after more than 114 days from when the Board of Elections and Ethics declares a vacancy.

Mr. Brown said the council will make sure the needs of Ward 5 are met. Other council members echoed that call.

“My office is available to the residents of Ward 5,” Mr. Wells said Thursday. “Every council member, not just the at-large members, will reach out … to make sure their issues are represented.”

Mr. Thomas‘ legal troubles weighed significantly on the council in 2011, a year with criticism of Mr. Gray’s hiring practices and a federal investigation into whether his associates paid a minor mayoral candidate to bash then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty on the campaign trail.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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