Report: Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. Expected to Resign; Special Election Would Be Set

WUSA9.com is reporting that Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (D-Ward 5) is going to resign from office sometime this week, sources close to the councilmember tell the CBS affiliate television station. 

Thomas, a two-term councilmember, came under scrutiny when faced with allegations that he had misused $300,000 earmarked for youth sports programs for personal expenses, including trips, golf outings, an SUV and a motorcycle.

After being sued by D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan, Thomas agreed to repay the $300,000 in six installments but did not admit guilt for his alleged actions. He has since made the first payment, but, as of the close of business on Tuesday, failed to make the second payment. Thomas did not appear at a previously scheduled legislative meeting at council chambers at the Wilson Building this morning.

Associates of the councilman say he is working on a plea agreement and is expected to plead guilty to at least one felony, possibly more, and receive a two- to three-year sentence.

In his previous runs for the Council, Thomas earned a good amount of support from members of the LGBT community, especially after he voted to approve marriage equality in 2010 despite pressure from some residents and pastors from his socially conservative ward.

In the end, though, the appearance of impropriety outweighed whatever good will he had built up among his ward’s LGBT residents.

“I have a concern with the ethical situation and what I think is a lack of moral compass, and sort of what is a nonchalant attitude about it,” Ward 5 resident Kerry Neal said. “A number of people have just had it with him personally, as well as with the political structure that just allows him to run roughshod over other issues.”

“I think it’s a good thing for the District, for the neighborhood,” gay Ward 5 resident Vincent Villano said upon hearing reports of Thomas’s expected resignation. “We really need people in office who actually work on behalf of D.C. residents. I think it’s a good thing he’s stepping down. I think it’s a good things he’s serving time.”

Both Lateefah Williams, president of the Washington, D.C. Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, and Robert Turner, president of the D.C. chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, said they were not commenting at this time but would issue statements if and when Thomas resigned.

According to D.C. municipal regulations, once the Board of Elections and Ethics certifies that a seat is vacant, a special election is held on the first Tuesday occurring more than 114 days after the vacancy becomes effective.

Alysoun McLaughlin, public affairs manager at the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, said that, in some instances, the board can rule that the special election be held on the same day as a previously scheduled primary or general election occurring within 60 days of the date on which the special election would normally be held.

However, she said, in the case of the April 3 primary, because ballots need to be out the door 45 days before the primary election, there would likely not be enough time for candidates to qualify for the ballot. 

There are procedures to follow in the case of the resignation or death of an at-large member of the council, but McLaughlin said the board’s regulations don’t address the resignation of an individual ward member. Since there is no provision for appointing a replacement or interim councilmember, the seat would remain vacant until a special election could occur.

Potential candidates would would run for a special election include Thomas’s 2010 general election opponent, openly gay Republican Tim Day, who told Metro Weekly that he would consider running in a special election were Thomas either recalled or forced to resign. 

Day also said he would not be surprised if Thomas’s Democratic opponent Kenyan McDuffie or Kathy Henderson, who ran against Thomas as a Democrat in 2006 and an independent in 2010, jumped into the race.

Another candidate frequently mentioned is another one of Thomas’s 2010 primary opponents, Democrat Delano Hunter, who was supported by the National Organization for Marriage, a national group that opposes marriage equality. Hunter told Metro Weekly that he was not commenting on either Thomas’s expected resignation or a future run for office at this time, but would issue a statement after Thomas resigned.

Villano said he was slightly concerned about potentially lacking representation on the council for at least four months, but at the same time, felt that the quality of the representation residents were receiving from Thomas was not much of an improvement.

When asked about a possible runs by some candidates, Villano said a Hunter candidacy would be cause for concern to him because of Hunter’s support from national conservative activist groups generally opposed to LGBT rights.

“Bloomingdale has one of the highest percentages of same-sex couples in the city,” Villano said. “For us, it’s really important to have people who represent us respect the way we live and love. Overall, I know Ward 5 is a welcoming place to live, and it’s annoying that NOM continues to stick its nose into places where it doesn’t belong.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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