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It turns out Ward 8’s Marion Barry is not the only councilmember embroiled in nonprofit drama.
Remember that nice 237-home development I wrote about? A Brookland seminary offered up the land—-once occupied by old sports fields—-now that their student body has dwindled.
Well, Ward 5’s Harry Thomas Jr. came out vigorously in support of the project, despite reservations from the local ANC and the Zoning Commission.
The Brookland Heartbeat contends that position might have something to do with a $55,000 donation made by the project’s developer, EYA, to one of Thomas’s special operations, the Ward 5 Business Council, which was established in part by Thomas, according to its webpage.
The group’s mission is to “assist Ward 5 businesses—particularly small, minority- and women-owned businesses—succeed and prosper.”
Victoria Leonard-Chambers, a key Thomas staff member, remains a board member of the Ward 5 Business Council, according to news reports.
That $55,000 check wasn’t part of the developer’s original community amenities package, states the Hearbeat article, which essentially alleges that the developer used the money to win Councilmember Thomas’s allegiance.
In letters to EYA and the Zoning Commission, [Silas Grant, ANC commissioner] expressed skepticism that giving money to the Ward 5 Business Council would benefit the nearby businesses that would be most impacted by the development.
In fact, the idea of adding the Ward 5 Business Council to the amenities package appears to have originated in discussions between Vicky Leonard and Jack Lester. No records indicate that members of the community requested the funding. Other elements of the amenities package, such as the scholarship fund, repairs to Shaed Elementary School, and improvements to a local triangle park, were the result of suggestions from Mr. Grant or members of the community.
The D.C. campaign finance office is investigating the connection between Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr.’s support for a proposed residential development and the builder’s donation of thousands of dollars to a nonprofit Thomas established.
In the Examiner’s story, Thomas and Leonard-Chambers both refuse to comment on the ongoing investigation. An EYA representative “said the council member got behind EYA well before the amenities package was finalized.”
Image by Darrow Montgomery