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Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. appears to be the latest member of D.C.’s legislative body with financial woes to come to light—court records show the U.S. government is claiming he owes  than $16,000 in student loan-related debt.

UPDATE: Thomas disputes this, saying all his loans have been “satisfied,” and the whole brouhaha originated from an “administrative error.”

The councilmember took out two federally-backed student loans of $2,672.60 each in the early ’80s, then defaulted on those loans shortly thereafter, according to U.S. District Court filings. In 2006, the federal government came to collect, suing Thomas for $16,820.06. That total included the $5,345.20 in principal, $7,680.86 in interest (behold, the magic of compound interest!), attorney’s fees of $3,794, plus court and other fees adding up to $400.

But the case was dismissed last year by United States Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson after an attorney for the government, Thomas Mauro, said he hadn’t properly served Thomas with court papers.

Lucky break, right? Not so fast: Mauro isn’t letting this go without a fight. He’s since asked Robinson to reconsider, in a filing that doesn’t paint Thomas in a very flattering light. Mauro said the only reason the case was tossed out in the first place was because he realized Thomas’ lawyer wasn’t actually licensed to practice law in the District.

In the latest filing, Mauro says Thomas hasn’t responded to multiple calls to his council office to discuss the case, and has “no legitimate defense” against the government’s claim that he owes them money. Thomas never showed at a status hearing in 2008, either, court records show. Mauro said he served Thomas’s attorney with a “Motion for Summary Judgment,” but then had to withdraw it after he realized Thomas’ attorney wasn’t a licensed member of the D.C. Bar.

According to an online docket, Robinson is at least leaving the door slightly open for the government to collect. In May, the judge directed Thomas to file a response to the request to reopen the case. That response was due June 9th, but there’s no record that one was ever filed.

Thomas said he’s confident his lawyers will be able to have the case tossed again because he “has no balance due” to any “educational institution.”

Last week, City Paper reported that “according to Maryland court records, Thomas has earned himself five speeding tickets in the Old Line State—none of which have been paid.” And in March, the Examiner reported that Thomas’s car was booted for not paying for “four unpaid parking tickets, totaling $655.”

By the old newspaper rule—three is a trend!—it would appear the Wilson Building is past due for a visit from Suze Orman: Thomas is now the fourth councilmember (that we know about) who has debt problems. The Washington Times reported earlier this week that At-Large Councilmember Michael Brown is “facing a federal lien seeking more than $50,000 in unpaid income taxes.” Last week NBC-4 reported that Kwame Brown was being sued for more than $50,000 in credit card debt. And Marion Barry has had plenty of tax problems.

We’re nearing a quorum!

Photo by Darrow Montgomery