In case you missed it, LL’s column this week looks at the for-profit version of Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.‘s Team Thomas, an organization that’s under investigation by the attorney general’s office and under pressure to disclose its donors and expenses from anyone who gives a flip about good government.
For space reasons, some stuff didn’t make the cut. But there’s no space restrictions on the Internet, so here ’tis:
The murky origins of Team Thomas:
The official history of Team Thomas begins Feb. 4, 2000, when the non-profit Team Thomas was registered with the DCRA. Thomas said he, his wife and his sister started the group as a tribute to his late father, Harry Thomas Sr. to run programs at the Harry Thomas Recreation Center in his home ward. Thomas Sr. was the last of the District’s true political ward bosses and served as councilmember from 1987 to 1999.
But a 1999 obituary about Thomas Sr. published in the Afro-American says he founded a group called “Team Thomas” that was an “organization dedicated to young people, the Woodbridge Boys and Girls Club, and Providence Hospital.” And a 2007 Post column from Marc Fisher paraphrases Thomas Jr. describing Team Thomas as a “family campaign operation that has persisted through generations.”
Indeed, Thomas Jr.’s website used to brag about Team Thomas hosting toy drives, a holiday breakfast with Santa and a Thanksgiving Turkey giveaway—which are exactly the kind of political traditions for which Thomas Sr. was known.
The non-profit Team Thomas’ city contracts:
In 2002, Team Thomas won a $78,800 grant from the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation for “summer programming” in Ward 5. The CYITC is a mix of public and private funds that doles out grants to organizations around the city.
“Summer programming” sounds a lot like the same kind of services the for-profit version of Team Thomas provided—baseball clinics and camps, etc— after wining contracts from the city’s parks department.
The CYITC also gave Team Thomas $8,000 in 2006 to participate in an initiative called “Cross Cities Learning Circle to Improve the Achievement Gap for Young Men of Color.” That same year, the for-profit version of Team Thomas won almost $75,000 in city contracts for “professional services,” and earned $9,000 from Thomas’ political campaign for things like “catering.”
Readers with longer memories may recall that CYITC was the vehicle Thomas used to dole out earmark-type funding after the council ended earmarks.
At a hearing last fall, CYITC CEO Ellen London said CYITC had initially believed it was awarding contracts to a non-profit, but based on what’s come to light since the A.G. began investigating, she now believes CYITC awarded contracts to a for-profit version of Team Thomas. Not to worry, she says, for-profits were eligible for the type of funding Team Thomas received.
LL mentioned in his column he’s not sure whether Thomas is clear on the difference between the for-profit version of Team Thomas and the non-profit version. This isn’t helping.
Thomas has referred questions about Team Thomases to his attorney, who isn’t responding to LL’s calls.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery