Statement Regarding Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr.

July 25, 2011

After discussing the settlement of the civil suit filed against Council Member Harry Thomas Jr. with both D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan and the Council Member himself, I have come to the conclusion that Mr. Thomas needs to step down. I sincerely hope he will take this difficult step for the good of our city as well as the integrity of the council on which he serves.

I commend the Attorney General for aggressively pursuing the return of more than $300,000 in public funds that Council Member Thomas clearly diverted for unacceptable purposes. Mr. Nathan's suit claimed that Mr. Thomas used these funds, which were intended to help youth, to purchase a $60,000 vehicle and expensive travel and accommodations while vacationing and playing golf. Mr. Nathan secured a swift settlement that protects the city's interests and saves valuable resources by avoiding a lengthy court process that easily could have taken one to two years to litigate.

Although in my conversation with Council Member Thomas about the settlement he continued to deny any wrongdoing, he offered no explanation for the diversion of $300,000. In fact, he has not refuted the facts laid out by the attorney general in the civil complaint beyond asserting that they "are not true." We need better than that from public officials who oversee a city budget of more than $10 billion.

I am not eager to ask for Mr. Thomas' resignation. The residents of Ward 5 need representation on the council, and in my opinion it is not enough to have at-large members advocate for the ward's interests. But I have weighed this cost against the damage to the public trust that Mr. Thomas' continued role causes our city. It is time to begin the difficult process of restoring public confidence in our government and its leaders, and Mr. Thomas' resignation is the first step.