Today Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham‘s Human Services Committee voted 4-0 to give the committee (or, more accurately, Graham) subpoena power in his ongoing probe of the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, the publicly funded nonprofit that former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. used to do all of his stealing.
In a statement, Graham says he needs subpoena power to find out who helped Thomas steal more than $350,000 in public money through the trust. Graham’s committee released a copy of a report into the CYITC today, which found that Thomas’ “criminal actions could not have occurred without the actions of Trust staff and perhaps others,” but doesn’t say who those people are.
Graham’s report also dings Mayor Vince Gray, noting that that it was under his watch that a $400,000 earmark for “youth baseball” directed toward the trust found its way into the Budget Support Act when he was D.C. Council chairman. Every other earmark for the CYITC that year named the specific group the council or mayor wanted funded.
“What this means is that all of the other specific earmarks were formally approved by a Council vote. Those responsible for close supervision of the BSA were surely aware of this anomaly,” the report says.
But a former council staffer familiar with the budget process while Gray was chairman, who requested anonymity because the staffer was not authorized to speak on the record, says the “youth baseball” earmark wouldn’t have raised any red flags because Gray and his staff would have assumed the CYITC would competitively bid the grant—rather than just dole it out to a pass-through organization of Thomas’ choosing, which is what wound up happening.
The Gray administration is also unhappy with the council giving itself subpoena power to investigate an entity that several sitting councilmembers, including Graham, used in the past to direct earmarks. “Given questions about the Council’s relationship with the Trust, I believe these reviews should remain in the hands of the Attorney General and the US Attorney,” Gray said in a statement.
His attorney general, Irv Nathan, tells LL that Graham’s investigation is “inappropriate” and could interfere with the other probes going on. Nathan points out that the D.C. auditor, which is the council’s own watchdog, is also conducting an investigation. That brings the total number of investigations into the CYITC, including Graham’s, to four.
Graham brushes off concerns of possible interference, saying he’s “at the end” of this investigation and only has a few key questions left of a few key people before his investigation wraps up. He also scoffs at the notion that he and the council couldn’t investigate the CYITC because they’d used it for earmarking. “I’ll defend every single earmark I gave, because they were damn good earmarks,” says Graham.
Graham adds that since his report went public, he’s had several people reach out to him eager to talk rather than waiting to be subpoenaed.