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The feds have finally given Mayor Vince Gray the opening to do what some of his staff have wanted for a long time: call on Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. to resign.
Given today’s filing by the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, I urge Councilmember Thomas to resign and focus his time and efforts on defending himself in court. While everyone is presumed innocent until proven otherwise, those who violate the public’s trust must be held accountable for their actions. I’m hopeful that this matter will be concluded quickly.
Despite a large pile of evidence that Thomas’ days were numbered, including the fact that the mayor’s his own attorney general sued Thomas for allegedly stealing more than $300,000 in city money, Gray has been cautious in his statements about his long-time friend.
Here’s what LL wrote in October:
Like most D.C. politicians, the mayor appears to have made the political calculation that the cost of calling on Thomas to resign was higher than the cost of saying nothing. Part of the risk-reward ratio, as with just about every issue in D.C. politics, involves race; there’s a sense in some parts of the city that black politicians like Thomas are unfairly being attacked.
On a purely political level, it’s hard to quibble with the mayor’s choice. Why risk alienating the African-American base that got him elected (and a 52-point margin of victory in Ward 5)? That may not be courageous leadership, but smart politicians know which battles to avoid.
Now Gray has an out, courtesy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Whether he faces any blowback for sticking with Thomas for so long is still up in the air; he may not, given that many of Thomas’ most vocal critics are already also critics of Gray’s.
Update: Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown hedges his statement on Thomas’ current situation:
I am very disappointed to learn of the serious charges brought against Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. He must very carefully consider doing what is in the best interests of his family, his constituents, and the District. I have not received Councilmember Thomas’ resignation, but I expect it. As I pledged on Tuesday, the residents of Ward 5 will continue to have their concerns represented by the Council of the District of Columbia.
Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, meanwhile, joined the mayor today in calling for Thomas to resign. For those of you counting at home, they join Councilmembers David Catania, Mary Cheh and Tommy Wells in calling for Thomas to step down.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery