Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.  stepped down as chair of the Committee on Economic Development after the attorney general on June 6 filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Ward 5 Democrat.
Thomas, who is accused of using earmarked grants and donations to purchase a luxury vehicle along with golf vacations, denied all allegations made by D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan.
“There were no shenanigans going on… I want the facts presented to the public and that’s what we’re going to do,” Thomas said on Monday at a press conference.
D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown and members of the council met behind closed doors this week to discuss a “plan of action” to address Thomas’ troubles.  As a result, Brown’s office issued a statement on Thursday, which stated that Thomas, himself, decided to step down.
“Today, Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. submitted to me a letter requesting to step down from his position as chair of the Committee on Economic Development. I have accepted his request,” Brown said in the statement. “I plan to transfer all economic development matters to the Committee of the Whole temporarily until after the council’s recess.  I will make further suggested changes at that time. Going forward, I want to ensure that the economic development agenda moves forward in an efficient and expeditious manner.”
The District will seek to recover more than $1 million, which includes damages for the $316,000 allegedly taken from grants; civil penalties; and attorneys’ fees and costs.
“We cannot tolerate the diversion of any of our scarce District resources, particularly by those who would use their positions of trust and influence to obtain these funds for personal gain,” Nathan stated in a press release.
According to the AG’s complaint, Thomas used more than $300,000 in grant money for “youth baseball programs” without a District charitable solicitation license and a 501(c) (3) organization.  An alleged $80,000 from private donors was used for claimed charitable purposes that were never established.

Erica Butler

AFRO Staff Writer