In the most recent of numerous scandals to rock the District of Columbia’s famously corrupt government, a councilman charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars meant for youth programs has been let off the hook by the city’s attorney general and won’t be federally charged because the area’s U.S. attorney is a college fraternity brother.
It marks the latest in a never-ending tale of the crooked officials who run D.C. and seldom face consequences. In this case D.C. Councilman Harry Thomas, who has represented Ward 5 since 2007, “diverted” more than $300,000 in public funds intended for children’s sports and spent it on personal travel and a luxury car. At least that is what the city’s attorney general, Irvin Nathan, said in a lawsuit filed last month in D.C. Superior Court.
The councilman spent the money on a loaded sports utility vehicle that cost nearly $60,000 and on trips to Las Vegas and Pebble Beach California, according to the complaint, which is still posted on the D.C. Attorney General’s website. The attorney general claimed that he wanted to force Thomas to repay the city the money plus damages and other costs totaling more than $1 million.
Apparently it was only a publicity stunt because this week the attorney general settled the lawsuit by allowing Thomas to simply pay the $300,000 back. The sweet deal means no indictment, no admission of wrongdoing and Thomas keeps his job. Previously at least two councilmembers had called for Thomas to resign, though he never really considered it.
It’s unlikely that the feds will pursue a case since the prosecutor (U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen) in charge of the area and Thomas are college fraternity brothers. A local newspaper brought that little-known but relevant fact to light this week. Thomas, Machen and Machen’s top deputy at the local Justice Department branch are all brothers in the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, according to the report.
The politicians elected to run D.C. have been making these sorts of headlines for years. Just last month the council’s chairman, Vincent Gray, who once headed the District’s Department of Human Services, got caught using official stationery to solicit donations for the Democratic Party and secretly using a politically connected city contractor renovate his house.
Previously, Mayor Adrian Fenty used taxpayer-funded advertisements to promote a family business that donated generously to his campaign. He also took a number of costly and controversial overseas trips paid for by international governments. Judicial Watch has obtained the documents, through public records requests, detailing the highly questionable jaunts.
Who could forget the D.C. Council’s most famous member, a renowned crack head who has been elected four times after prison. Since getting captured on FBI surveillance video smoking crack as D.C. mayor in 1990, Marion Barry has been in trouble for evading taxes, violating the terms of his probation and, just a few months ago, for stalking his former girlfriend. Yet he’s a fixture in D.C. government where he currently represents Ward 8.