Team Thomas Not Backing Down
Wanna see two of the District's most high profile lawyers in action? LL's got you covered.
In one corner is superlawyer Fred Cooke Jr., Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry's long-time attorney. In the other, Still Mayor Adrian Fenty's pugnacious attorney general, Peter Nickles.
The issue: Team Thomas, the non-profit started by Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. that his Republican opponent has called a city-funded slush fund and Nickles is investigating.
Nickles asked Thomas for Team Thomas' financial records in a letter last week, and then issued a subpoena for the records on Wednesday when he didn't get them. Cooke, who represents both Team Thomas and the councilmember, says he's advised his clients "not to respond" to the subpoena, and is crying foul at what he calls Nickles' "bullying and ethically questionable tactics."
LL's got a copy of a letter Cooke sent to Nickles yesterday, and the AG's response he sent today.
Cooke starts off saying that Nickles doesn't have the legal authority under the District's "charitable solitications law" to request the sort of records he's request because Team Thomas isn't a charity. "Team Thomas has not held itself out to be either a charity, or a tax exempt charitable organization," Cooke writes. "There are no facts that would tend to support any finding that Team Thomas has made any plea (directly or indirectly) for a contribution ... for any charitable purpose."
Nickles responds, in essence, are you out of your mind, Fred? "On his Councilmember web-site, Mr. Thomas describes Team Thomas as 'a non-profit organization for social change, citizen empowerment, community development, and youth and senior program development.' These stated purposes bring Team Thomas well within the scope of the District's charitable solicitations law," Nickles writes.
Cooke also asks why Team Thomas is being singled out for scrutiny, even though its operations are not "materially different" from any other District non-profit. Nickles responds that Team Thomas is being investigated because, "despite never having had a license to solicit contributions in D.C., it appears to be—and is described by Mr. Thomas as—a charitable donation funded by donations."
Cooke says there appears to be a "another agenda" for Nickle's behavior. But, Cooke adds, Thomas and Team Thomas are "absolutely amenable" to providing the records Nickles asked for in his letter last week—they just don't like the subpoena. In a phone call with LL, Cooke says the point of his letter was to ask Nickles to withdraw the subpoena, which he calls totally unnecessary.
"Stylistically, it's classic Peter Nickles," Cooke says.
In his letter, Nickles essentially says whatever dude—just hand over the documents.
"If we receive the requested information by the close of business today, if won't matter if whether your clients say they are responding to the subpoena or to the letter. If we don't receive the requested information by close of business today, we will petition the Superior Court for enforcement on Monday," Nickles writes. "That's the bottom line."
LL asked Cooke if he planned on complying with the end-of-the-day deadline. Cooke's response: Since Nickles didn't answer his request to withdraw the subpoena, "I'm not sure what I'm going to do as I sit here right now."
Are these two headed for court or what?
Read the letters after the jump.
Cooke's letter to Nickles:
Nickles' letter back to Cooke: