D.C. Leaders Finally Express Outrage Over Thomas

After three days of near silence, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said Monday he was personally outraged by the felony crimes of former Ward 5 Council member Harry “Tommy” Thomas Jr., who pleaded guilty in federal court Friday and is awaiting sentencing.

The muted response from some city leaders drew criticism itself. Thomas took money intended for children's programs, and some people are asking, Where's the outrage?

At the Wilson Building Monday, Thomas's former office was locked up tight, his name removed. Even the building directory showed no sign of him or Ward 5.

Thomas left federal court Friday a convicted felon for stealing more than $350,000 in city funds intended for youth organizations and tax evasion. He'll be sentenced in May to as much as almost four years in prison.

Gray, who for months had urged citizens to await the judicial process, called for Thomas to resign but declined comment on his crimes. News4 showed Gray the 21-page court document detailing Thomas's many thefts from children's programs Monday.

“I think we're now trying to figure out how we move on from this,” the mayor said.

Thomas is the first council member to resign under a legal cloud since home rule began in 1975. Some leaders say personal relationships with Thomas's family -- his father served three terms as the council member from Ward 5 and his mother was a school teacher -- muted their criticism at first, but they are offended.

 “For any public official to steal money is just outrageous beyond the pale and he deserves whatever prison time he gets as does any other elected official who falls into that category,” Council member Jack Evans said.

“I had the opportunity to read the 21-page document over the weekend again, and it's something that is absolutely, positively wrong,” Council Chairman Kwame Brown said.

“I know Tommy,” Gray said. “I know his family well, and I have a lot of compassion for them in this situation, but at the same time, this is something that never should have happened.”

Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy noted the muted criticism Monday, calling on every council member to resign.

That's not going to happen, but every council member should realize a recent poll showed only 30 percent of citizens approve of the council.

A special election to replace Thomas likely will be held May 15, the Associated Press reported. Alysoun McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the District's Board of Elections and Ethics, said the board has yet to receive a formal resignation letter from Thomas. That means the board likely won't declare the seat vacant until early next week, which would trigger a May 15 election under District law. The winner would serve out the remainder of Thomas's term, which runs through 2014. Candidates would have to collect 500 signatures. They can be from any party, and their party affiliation will appear on the ballot.

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