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Following the search of D.C. Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.’s (D-Ward 5) Brentwood home by FBI and IRS agents Dec. 2, the DC Log Cabin Republicans, a gay Republican group, renewed their call for Thomas to resign for allegedly steering hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds to nonprofits he headed for his personal enrichment.
Thomas became the subject of a federal probe after D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan sued Thomas and accused him of diverting more than $300,000 intended for youth sport programs to his personal nonprofits, later using the money to purchase an SUV and for travel. Thomas agreed to repay the District to settle the lawsuit, without having to admit guilt, but Nathan referred the case to U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen.
Since Thomas’s settlement, at least three other councilmembers – David Catania (I-At Large), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) – have called on him to resign. In a statement issued Dec. 2, DC Log Cabin Republicans called on the remaining councilmembers to also back that effort.
”They need to stand up for real ethics reform,” said DC Log Cabin President Robert Turner II. ”And that can only begin with the resignation of Harry Thomas.”
Turner credited Thomas’s 2010 opponent, Tim Day, a gay Republican and member of the LCR chapter, who is now running for an at-large seat currently held by Councilmember Michael A. Brown (I-At Large), with having compiled the research used against Thomas in Nathan’s lawsuit.
When asked if Day’s actions might be seen as personal due to his previous run against Thomas, Turner pushed back, saying that the issues were pursued as legitimate complaints, and that Thomas’s agreement to repay the city for the $300,000 would seem to imply he was guilty of wrongdoing.
”It’s not a partisan issue. It’s about ethics in government,” Turner said. ”Most D.C. residents are frustrated and fed up with this.”
When asked if he was concerned about getting rid of Thomas, who has been viewed as an ally to the LGBT community, Turner said that had no bearing on his call for Thomas to resign, adding he didn’t view Thomas as a very strong LGBT ally and calling him one of the ”fiercest” opponents of allowing gay establishments to relocate to Ward 5 from the Navy Yard when Nationals Park was being built.
D.C. law allows District residents to recall elected officials one year after taking office if opponents can gather petition signatures from 10 percent of registered voters in an election district. Turner said that DC Log Cabin was working with other groups to prepare to circulate petitions calling for Thomas’s ouster in January 2012, the earliest chance possible.
Lateefah Williams, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Log Cabin’s counterpart, said she was not going to comment on whether Thomas should resign, and declined to comment on any related legal issues.
”We should let the investigation play out,” she said.
But Williams did defend Thomas’s stance on LGBT-related issues, saying he had been an ally to the community when tough votes came before the council.
”As far as what he’s done for LGBT community, during his primary, one of his opponents was backed by the National Organization for Marriage, which was opposed to the marriage-equality bill,” Williams said. ”One of the reasons the LGBT community and our allies backed him was because he voted in support of marriage equality, even though he faced opposition in his ward, which was a courageous move.”
Williams also said Thomas has made it a point to attend LGBT community functions, calling him a ”friend and ally of the community.”