D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown hinted Tuesday that he's preparing for the possibility that embattled Ward 5 Council member Harry “Tommy” Thomas Jr. might be unable to do his job or end up resigning.
Residents of Ward 5 "are going to be taken care of" despite Thomas's distracting legal troubles, Brown said.
Thomas has struggled to combat allegations he misspent more than $300,000 in city funds on his own lavish lifestyle. An investigation began last year when D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan got Thomas to agree to repay $300,000 without admitting legal wrongdoing.
Dec. 2, FBI and IRS agents swarmed over Thomas's house in northeast Washington, spending much of the day hauling away expensive vehicles and other items.
Several sources told News4 that federal authorities are nearing an end to their possible criminal investigation against Thomas.
Brown was asked Tuesday if he thought Thomas could still be a productive member of the council, and Brown’s response suggested he is preparing for the legal battle to continue or for Thomas to resign:
“We're going to do everything we can to make sure that the residents of Ward 5 continue to have things move forward – whether it’s the economic development projects, whether it’s making sure we have a standalone middle school in Ward 5 ready to go, whether we make sure that any of the constituent services and issues are taken care of, we’re going to continue to make sure that the residents of Ward 5 are well represented,” Brown said.
Thomas has denied any legal wrongdoing but increasingly has withdrawn from council debates and other activities as he struggles with his legal troubles.
In addition to Thomas, Chairman Brown himself and Mayor Vincent Gray are also under separate federal investigations into possible wrongdoing, raising questions about the entire city government.
“Until the investigations by the U.S. attorney are resolved, involving the mayor, the chairman and Councilman Thomas, it’s always going to be with us,” Council member Jack Evans said. “It’s just going to be a cloud over our head. Getting the new ethics bill passed on an emergency tomorrow was a good first start. It was a good bill that we did, but again, these investigations will always be the linchpin before the council can move forward.”
Thomas had a $50,000 payment toward that $300,000 due Tuesday. By close of business, he hadn't paid it. He has 10 days to pay before facing more penalties.