Loose Lips

Vince Gray: Team Thomas Ain’t On Me

Not my problem

The Washington Post's editorial jihad against Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. and his Team Thomas non-profit must have rubbed off on LL, who kinda got into it with Mayor Vince Gray today at his news conference announcing his pick for deputy mayor for planning and economic development and other staff.

LL asked Gray what his thoughts were on Team Thomas, especially in light of yesterday's story in The Washington Times, which lists yet another developer who donated to the sports youth non-profit and alleges that developers contributed to Thomas' 2006 campaign through Team Thomas—which LL is going to guess is probably illegal if true.

Gray said his news conference was about introducing his new staff picks, and he wasn't going to talk about Thomas, who was at the news conference and was recently given the chairmanship of the Committee on Economic Development.

"You don't feel like you have an obligation to talk about it?" LL asked Gray.

"I just answered that, Alan," Gray said.

"So that's a no?" LL said.

"That's very perceptive," Gray said, which was a pretty funny response.

Later, Gray told LL one-on-one that he doesn't know the whole story of Team Thomas and it wouldn't be appropriate for him to comment.

"I'm going to leave that to him to solve, he's got to solve that .. I don't want to get into the middle of his issues," Gray said.

Only problem is: These are Gray's issues now.

Gray's new attorney general inherited an investigation into Team Thomas, and Gray's position at the top of municipal food chain makes him by default the government's moral authority.

There's also the fact that Gray ran on a platform of an open and transparent government, and it's become increasingly clear that Team Thomas is neither open or transparent.

LL's perfectly aware that there is less than zero political incentive for Gray to rail against his close ally Thomas, and it's probably the smart move for Gray to say as little about Team Thomas as possible. But leaders lead, Team Thomas stinks, and something needs to be done about it.

Let's do a quick review: Elected officials are required by law to make public when developers and other business interests give them money, either through campaign donations, constituent service funds, or gifts.

We know from reporting done by the Post and Times that developers and other business interests have given money to Team Thomas. We also know from Thomas that he used Team Thomas money for trips to Las Vegas, Florida, and elsewhere, for reasons somehow tied to the organization's official mission of getting youth interested in sports. But we don't know how much was donated, by whom, and exactly what that money was used for—because Thomas never bothered to report it.

That's not good government, by any stretch of the imagination, and Gray knows it.

Thomas has had several months now to make public what's essentially very basic accounting: Who gave what, how was it spent? But Thomas hasn't released anything useful to the public, and there's no reason why he shouldn't. Sure, the A.G.'s office is currently investigating, but if Team Thomas is legit, then why not release its donors and expenses?

Instead, Thomas makes promises that he'll release the info but never follows through, leaving LL and the four or five other folks who care wondering just which developers have been writing checks (and how big were they) to the city's new overseer of economic development.

Obviously, hounding from the press is not going to get Thomas to release Team Thomas' finances. But maybe a message from the new mayor that the city isn't going to tolerate this kind of foolishness would.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Truth Hurts

    Well put, LL. I'm unaware of a single elected one city politician who has demonstrated character, integrity, or leadership regarding Harry Thomas's slush fund.

    It's a disgrace.

  • Truth Hurts

    Nothing but crickets from all the one city folks who were claiming to be good government, transparent types in 2010.

  • LOL

    Sheese Truth. I went out for once. Can't i have one night on the town. :)

    I think that the AG has to continue to pursue this. If Team Thomas is in the wrong, they should be accountable. Aren't non-profits subject to some penalty if they don't keep proper records?

  • Drez

    Gray was chair of the council during the time Team Thomas was rolling, Gray ran for and won the Mayor's office in part on a platform of ethics reform- with Thomas's support, Gray's hand-picked AG is now in charge of prosecuting a case against Thomas.
    It's pretty clear this will go no where, the only mystery is what lie will cover it up and who will deliver that lie.

  • TONY

    jim graham is a disgrace and jack evans is a disgrace and that david catania is a disgrace -ALL OF WHOM HAVE RUN AFOULED OF THE LAW BUT NONE OF THEM HAVE BEEN DENIED ANYTHING MUCH LESS CRITICIZED BY THE WHITE PRESS...Harry Thomas is being hounded because he was selected to chair a powerful committee that some white councilmembers believe they should have...Well,too bad...
    Harry Thomas is a good man who has done good for this city and his people. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, HARRY!

  • Our Streets

    LOL, you're telling me Graham wasn't skewered during the whole disgusting Loza affair? Talk about selective amnesia there. I am white and I believe Graham is close to as bad as Thomas and that neither deserves their council seat,it would be perceptive for you to conclude in fact that i would never vote for either one. Casting this in race is easy bait for all the gravy trainers who care nothing about good governance and continue to benefit from corruption, both blacks and white do this. Truth is we need to throw out all the bums, including Graham and Thomas, regardless of their race, in the next election. Hopefully by 2014 there will be the will to do this. And if Gray refuses to lead he'll be gone too.

  • Our Streets

    And to clarify, my comment was directed at Tony, not LOL. I just belted out a big LOL after reading Tony's comment.

  • Truth Hurts

    @ Tony: Fake claims of racism may make you feel good, but they don't change facts. And facts show HT is a liar (and probably crooked), whether he's white, black, brown, or pink.

    And for what it's worth, genius, read my posts on Graham and, sorry to say, Cheh. Btw, they're white.

    @ LOL: Please continue to weigh in. Most one city good government posers apparently jumped ship.

  • Anothernative

    @ Our Streets, Most of you fake closet racist hate when the covers are pulled off of you, with your so called unbias approaches to this issue. Where were you when PN and AF were stonewalling all of the FOIA request or put on the back burner and to this day haven't seen the light of day. We who believe in the one city concept know that folk's like you will continue the constant badgering of our good Mayor at every turn, but it won't deter us from our mission. LOL, you're telling me Graham wasn't skewered during the whole disgusting Loza affair? Where were you and your comment's during this ordeal? or wasn't it important enough, talk about selective amnesia.

  • Drez

    Anothernative: glad to see the intranets are working in PG today.

  • tformation

    I am no fan of HT. I voted against him and am almost positive that there was wrong doing on his part. If not with this then certainly elsewhere. With that being said....

    Can you at least give the Mayor 6 months. OR maybe half the amount of time you gave Fenty to actually answer one question? It's funny how all the things you so willingly explained away before are suddenly intolerable now. The press is the wrong place to hold court in any investigation and I believe that while not trying this case in the media (as Nickles did to all political opposition to Fenty) this Mayor will let the investigation continue, without his meddling, and let the chips fall where they may. How inappropriate in ANY manner for someone to comment on an ongoing investigation prior to it's conclusion. Do you know how stupid you end up looking? If Harry did wrong and he sas he doesnt think he did anything... DUMB ASS GRAY. If Harry did nothing and he says he must be guilty becuase he didnt turn over anything yet.... DUMBASS GRAY. Can you let him see/read/hear the results of the investigation before he has to comment? I mean DAMN!!!

    I think it is very "adult" of him not publicly comment as others did once a day. If only we could get those same daily comments from Fenty et al concerning how many lawsuits they settled against themselves and DC and how much was paid out instead of getting all those notices refusing to release public Govt documents. I would love to see the rallying cry for all those documents to be made public and not just "SOME" peoples info. As long as there is interest in "a certain select" group of people while ignoring/excusing all the others, the complaints will fall on deaf ears.

  • Drez

    Tformation:
    I think you raise some good points re: prejudging.
    However, it's entirely fair (and obviously in the public interest) to keep this inconvenient story alive in the press, and to press the powers that be to conduct an open and transparent investigation into Team Thomas.
    Because, the way things seem now, it just looks like the people in charge would rather this just go away.

  • Our Streets

    @Anothernative

    Dude, you make it sound like I think Fenty and Nickles were God's gifts to the city. Far from it. I know I'll never convince you that demands for good governance are tantamount to racism, but that's fine. It just shows where our priorities are.

    I'm happy to give Mayor Gray time. But as LL said, this is now Gray's issue. For Mayor Gray to say "he needs to solve it" and that these are "his issues" implies that Thomas is above the law and is accountable only to himself in solving this. The writing is far from on the wall, but the Mayor is going to have to come down hard on this when it matters.

  • Truth Hurts

    @ Tformation: Gray wasn't shy about commenting on the Thomas investigation last month (see 12/9 LL "I Think That's a Yes"). He suggested it was improperly politically motivated (comparing it to his fence). Yet now that he's mayor, neither he, his AG, HT, nor Cooke will even say whether HT complied with the court order enforcing the AG's subpoena.

    They all know, just won't inform the public. Transparent and accountable governance? Not even close.

  • Anothernative

    @OurStreets, Dude, do you forget where the Mayor came out on the Barry situation when he was the council chair? Although he didn't condemn Mr. Barry in public, when the smoke cleared and the fact's were laid out, this Mayor did what anyone with integrity in that position would do. Unlike the former Mayor, this one believes in processes an letting them work themselves through, an attribute that is commendable in my eye's, considering the climate of public sentiment these day's. @ Drez, Where did you say your place of origin was? Fact is I was born and raised in Washington D.C., that will not change.

  • tformation

    Dres-

    Keep this inconvenient story alive in the press?

    Okay yes, I'll give you that one even though I'm getting sick of hearing about it every day (I just want to hear the outcome which HAS to find wrongdoing). My opinion...

    Open and transparent investigation?

    Absolutely not. Investigations aren't open and transparent for a reason. So as not to taint the information being given. If HT knows who's being questioned and what the q's are, then he knows who to pressure and WHAT to ask them to say. Not only that, he knows who's saying what because, well, it's open and transparent to EVERYONE. NEVER a good idea and thats why you usually find out about investigations AFTER the indictments come down...

    Now on the other hand, OPEN and TRANSPARENT GOVT?
    I agree whole heartedly. I want to know who is getting those Govt contracts and for how much. How much are we paying in over time to DC Employees. How much are we paying for travel and why? How much we pay for remodeling a new Directors office and so on. THAT'S an open and trasnparent Government and I look forward to all of that and more being made public.

    It just looks like the people in charge would rather this just go away.

    Im sure they do WISH that. Hell! I'm sick of hearing about these antics that could end up being embarrassing for us too but as one person said above... Although he refused to get into the public back and forth in reference to Barry's mess, HE is the one who sanctioned Barry when it was all said and done. I think that even if he does "like" HT, if wrong doing is proven, (even though it would be Kwames job to do something) our new Mayor will have something to say about it.

    @Truth Hurts-

    I believe the point of the 12/9 LL comment was based on the issue of WHO keeps getting investigated in the last few days of Fenty's administration more so than if any of them had actually done anything wrong or not.

    As I'm sure you noticed, there was also a contractor who recieved 10 million dollars and had no invoices that never got "investigated". Another contractor who got 8 million dollars for landscaping jobs in DC who was driving Government vehicles and using a false address in order to recieve those contracts who never got "investigated", a councilmember whos fence was 18 inches too high who DID get investigated and another councilmember who "may" have recieved $60 thousand in donations that he did not report who WAS investigated. The fines levied against the two councilmembers even if they are wrong arent anywhere near the amount given to the contractors, but WE... chose to go after the small time for public embarrassment purposes and let the big time sail off into the sunset with our cash. Why do YOU think that was?

  • Truth Hurts

    My comments re the 12/9 LL blog were posted then and my views haven't changed. I differ with you on the thrust of the 12/9 LL. It was based mainly on questions to Gray about Team Thomas, though Gray's answer was broader.

    I think there's an obligation now for someone, especially those officials who previously commented publicly, to at least tell the public whether Thomas complied with the Court order re the subpoena. If he didn't, that would raise legitimate public questions about whether he's been given a get out of jail free card. You don't think that information (ie, whether HT coughed up the docs) should be made public?

  • Terry Miller

    I do believe that the investigation against Thomas was politically motivated. Honestly, I think all investigations are politicaly motivated!

    However, once begun, this investigation has to continue to the end, and a report issued on it. I would hate to see what happened in the Fenty administration, which was a call for an investigation (even an IG investigation) and then nothing happening at all, or some superficial report is issued. Gray needs to follow through.

  • Lou

    Tried and Convicted in the public without hearing truth or facts, just on mere perception. We are force fed what the media wants us to know. And conveniently when they want us to know. HT is always in front for the people and with the people. More than you can say for his accusers. Let's wait for the findings of the AG. I hope we can agree he will rule without bias. What does he have to gain?

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    I love how Drez and TH are fully focused on this now. Sort of like how the rest of us felt when Fenty and his cronies were running things. What a role-reversal. Hopefully now you two will see why we were so adamant against Fenty. Same thing fools. I'm with you bitches on this though. Thomas needs to man up and Gray needs to handle this like a real Mayor should. Clamp down hard. Thomas is a joke and the shady shit he's been doing needs to be rectified.

  • Rake

    ONE CITY!!! LOL. Poor Vince can campaign on "openness and transparency", but in practice he wants neither. At least some of us saw that ahead of time.

    Already making excuses and evading questions, and we're only on day 22 or so...

  • Skipper

    Why doesn't anyone ask Harry Thomas at his next public event why he's not keeping his word about releasing all the records from his "non-profit"?

    The bottom line is that Thomas promised to release all the information weeks ago and still hasn't.

    So either his promise wasn't actually a promise or he's hiding information that would contradict (even more) what he's stated in public about the activities of his "non-profit".

  • Kaci

    I for one am wondering why there is no media outcry for the results of the Trout investigation into Fenty giving more than $80 mllion in recreation contracts to his frat brothers. It seems a few thousand dollars to CERTAIN leaders are of more intereest than TENS OF MILLIONS of dollaars apparently illegally designated for friends of OTHER leaders who favored the west side of the city. LL, Post, Times, alll of you need to focus on the big bucks not the few pennies of Thomsas, Barry, etc. Not to say anyone shoud get a free ride from wrong doing, just how about a little equal time for wrong doers who favored the west side.

  • faineant

    @Kaci - awarding contracts to frat brothers is not against the law but a politician illegally funneling money through a charitable organization is no matter the dollar amount as you've so compared.

    Gray tricked his constiuency with that crap about an open and transparent government. He used that platform to become elected. Now he is showing many his yellow/pink/pale behind. An old African proverb tells that the higher a monkey climbs the tree, the more he shows you his behind.

    Therefore, Gray is not interested in holding accountable Harry Thomas just like nothing was done to Jim Graham. But as Chairman he held Marion Barry accountable - though not truly - since the minor reprimand was for the public as we noticed how Barry cozied up to Gray throughout his mayoral race, right? What goes on behind closed doors is enough to bring one to ad nauseum, however, Gray got what he wanted and that was simply to just beat Fenty. Gray will not be a better mayor than Fenty, I can assure all those in doubt about this. In his mind, he doesn't need to be a two-term mayor. Gray predictably will do more damage than Fenty regarding ethics and fiscal responsiblity. Laying back on the Team Thomas debacle is just the beginning of what we will see.

    You "One City" folk sure are gullible!

  • faineant

    And as far as Harry Thomas, why should he feel guilty about anything the executive branch lets him get away with? The onus is on those in charge to obliterate the corruption, but another poignant question, why would they attempt to obliterate corruption especially when they are directly tied to it?

  • Drez

    I'd love to see the results of the Trout investigation made public, and I've been saying that in these pages for many months. My guess is they haven't been because there was no finding of any illegality. And, now that the election has passed, I won't hold my breath waiting to be proven wrong.
    But funneling (tax exempted?)developer contributions through a phony 501c3 and using the funds to pay salaries and take trips to Vegas and other resort hotspots (all for the children!) is illegal on it's face.
    If there were any legit books on this they should have come to light long ago. Isn't Thomas in contempt of court over the production of these documents? Whose is the next move? The judges, the AG's, or Thomases?

  • Truth Hurts

    Like Drez, I've been asking for the Trout "investigation" report for almost one year (Thomas and Gray said it would be done last March, I believe). When do Kwame, Vince, and/or Thomas claim the public will have it?

  • ColorMeSkeptical

    Drez,

    I don't mind the trips to sports conventions. Those junkets could ostensibly have benefitted Team Thomas' stated mission. It's the personal Audi SUV that HTJ has received tax-free courtesy of Team Thomas, as well as the fact that he is voting on city appropriations to the same developers that are lining his pockets. On second thought, I don't even mind the that he is taking money from developers with business in front of the council - most DC council members do that. What I mind is that he didn't declare the conflict of interest for all the public to see, preferring to hope that no one would be smart enough to dig up the details.

    Now that he is simply hiding behind his dirty lawyers and waiting for Kwame and Gray's help in running out the clock, I would hope that those Ward 5 bums that continue to support him would actually accept that he's a scumbag and say so publicly. But that'll never happen.

  • Anothernative

    Gray predictably will do more damage than Fenty regarding ethics and fiscal responsiblity. Laying back on the Team Thomas debacle is just the beginning of what we will see. @faineant, Dude I can see you grinning all the way through the net, to make a statement like that with a 600 million dollar deficit looming for next year, get real. Lets not get it twisted, the city is in this mess because of AF's lack of fiscal responsibility and lack of respect for process bull in a china closet style, so don't pull that GOP stuff and get amnesia on me. @Drez&TH, I've got an excellent memory and I don't recall either of you making any noise about rushing the Trout report during the election, so chill with the bull.

  • Drez

    @TH
    Now that the election's done and Gray and Brown have their pumped out rides "Trout Investigation" = "Who What?"
    This was never a serious investigation. It was always a taxpayer funded smear intended to play to the court of public opinion.
    I guess there's no scool like the old school. Speaking of which, it's breathtaking how many pre-Williams era hacks have crawled out of the woodwork of late.

  • Drez

    @another native-
    Check the tape. I surely did. I knew it was bs that would either never be released or that, if it was, the "no wrongdoings" finding would be buried as unhelpful.

  • Truth Hurts

    @Anothernative: You're simply wrong. I've asked many times, in comments on CP's site, what happened to the Trout report that is WAY, WAY overdue.

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    TH and Drez are frucking hypocrites. While I too believe that Team Thomas deserves as much scrutiny as possible, I do believe that Omar Karim, Sinclair Skinner, Ron Moten, Keith Lomax, and you know that whole fiasco with the donated firetruck, should be scrutinized with as much intensity. I don't here you douches calling for this... frucking hypocrites.

  • Mr. Bigglesworth

    Dear Kwame,

    You have an astonishing amount of personal debt because you tried to play "Mr. Big Man" with your luxury cars and boats; said debts were the primary threat to your chairmanship.

    The city is broke, and as a result you are cutting the budgets for IMPORTANT and NECESSARY welfare services for the neediest residents.

    So why hasn't it occurred to you that your image would IMPROVE if you sucked it up and started driving a Honda Civic? Seriously.

    You already look like a massive tool, and hiding behind the tinted windows of a Navigator doesn't help. No one is impressed. NO ONE. Even if you don't really care, why not at least try to give the impression that you are a public SERVANT and not some ego-driven moron who takes advantage of situations for personal gain, as opposed to greater public good.

    And NO, you do not need a luxe ride for "security." Again, check your ego. No one cares enough about you. Seriously, we don't.

    Sincerely yours,

    The District of Columbia

  • Anothernative

    @Drez&TH, What are you two long lost siamese twins or something, I mean it's alright to disagree on an issue every now and then, it kind of show's you know like just a little individualism, you know what I mean?

  • Truth Hurts

    @ABM: ABM - blow me, you living in the past making up facts schizo moniker prick. I've tried repeatedly to be civil with you. Post your low level bitch ass comments at will. You're dead to me.

    @ Anothernative: No, I don't know what you mean. Check the posts over the past 2 years, you'll find disagreements. Better still, stop your dumb ass personal attacks and debate the issues. I'm wrong because you said stupid, factually incorrect crap about me and I corrected you? And you did the same re drez?

    In my experience, certain commenters who typically insult prior commenters are simpletons. Your choice, but choose wisely.

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    TH- Oh my douchebag friend. Insulting you is only fitting after having to listen to your bitch-ass ignore my calls for a deeper look at Friends of Fenty. Now you and that ass clown Drez are up in arms for essentially the same things I was up in arms for. You're a fucking hypocrite, plain and simple bitch. I think Thomas should be scrutinized and hopefully penalized for the shit he's doing- exactly as all of Fenty's buddies should be.

  • Drez

    I'd love to see Thomas investigated- just as I'd love to see the results of the Trout Investigation released.
    In that regard I have been 100% consistent, and 0% a hypocrite.

  • Anothernative

    @TH, Point, taken but I noticed you couldn't even defend yourself with out mentioning your twin. I'll admit though, you carry label well,cause it seem's that the truth really hurt's you, oh and I refuse to take the bait, so let's just keep it civil. My comment although blunt wasn't meant as an insult but simply an opinion.

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