District of Columbia Councilmember Harry Thomas has been ordered to comply with a subpoena from Attorney General Peter Nickles to deliver information about a nonprofit bearing his name.
Thomas received the order this week during a hearing in U.S. Superior Court regarding the fundraising activities of Team Thomas. According to Nickles, the organization is nonexistent, particularly since it is not registered with the IRS.
According to Thomas’ council biography, Team Thomas is “a non-profit organization for social change, citizen empowerment, community development, and youth and senior program development.”
As a result of the Nov. 2 hearing, Thomas was given three weeks to hand over information about Team Thomas to the attorney general.
In handing down the order, the judge questioned the timing of Nickles’ subpoena, suggesting he was possibly trying to influence the outcome of the general election. Thomas, on the Council since 2007, has been a staunch critic of Nickles and Mayor Adrian Fenty and also expressed concern that the situation was politically motivated.
Nickles’ petition for immediate enforcement would force Thomas to release information about the organization’s donors and expenditures.
According to Thomas’ attorney, Frederick Cooke, his client had planned to voluntarily release the information, but was unwilling to cave in to pressure from Nickles.
Following the hearing, Cooke said he didn’t think the case was simply about handing over information to the attorney general. “The judge did order that the subpoena Mr. Nickles issued could be enforced, but only after the expiration of three weeks, which is Nov. 23, because he didn’t believe that the enforcement of the subpoena should have politics injected into it,” Cooke told the AFRO.
“So as we have said on more than one occasion to the attorney general and to the public, we have never had a problem with disclosing the information. But what we believed and continue to believe is that Mr. Nickles is acting out of a fundamentally political motivation and that he had no legal authority to order us to provide the information.”
Thomas, the Ward 5 councilman, claimed victory in the Sept. 14 primary, but the celebration was soon mired in controversy following allegations that Thomas funneled money for the campaign through Team Thomas.
According to Tim Day, the Republican contender for Thomas’ council post, the lawmaker’s failure to comply earlier negated any reason to give him the benefit of a doubt. “I had hoped that we would be able to put this perceived misunderstanding behind us and get on with giving the residents of Ward 5 an honest election based on issues that affect their everyday lives,” Day said. “But there is no longer any doubt. Harry Thomas refused to provide the AG with any documentation to support Team Thomas’ funding practices after being subpoenaed and it more clear that Team Thomas is nothing more than his personal slush fund.”
Day further commented that Thomas’ “selfish behavior” had cast a shadow over the Ward 5 community, “leaving many residents in the dark and underserved.”