Loose Lips

The Other Team Thomas

Harry Thomas Jr. and the Other Team Thomas

If you lived in the District in 2003 and were serious about improving your baseball or softball swing, you might have stumbled upon fliers for six-and-a-half hour lessons at $350 a pop for an individual, or $700 for a team. Promising unparalleled, high-tech instruction, the lessons included time on the “SwingAway training machine”—which is basically a ball suspended from a string, that you hit into a net—and a “SwingAway interactive CD-ROM.”

“Hit like a pro!” the flier read. “Get Good!”

If you weren’t that into baseball, but were looking for something to keep your kid busy, the other side of the flier advertised free clinics for tykes and a $75 spring break camp.

The organization behind those clinics, lessons and camps: Team Thomas.

Regular observers of D.C. politics already know that Team Thomas is Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.’s non-profit group, which has run into a spell of trouble. The basic problem is this: Councilmember Thomas was running the non-profit while also serving in office, taking in unreported donations from a variety of companies that do business with the city. The organization raised more than $200,000 since 2008, but so far the public has few clues as to who gave what or how that money was spent.

Then-Attorney General Peter Nickles launched an investigation of Team Thomas in October, dragging Thomas into court twice to get subpoenas for records enforced, and has accused the organization of soliciting funds without a license. On top of that, The Washington Post’s editorial page has devoted its considerable investigative talents to unearthing unsavory details about Team Thomas, including some dirt on a couple of companies who gave the group money.

And last week The Washington Times piled on with a report that developer Keith Forney had donated to Team Thomas, and community groups were concerned Thomas was turning a deaf ear to their concerns about Forney’s strip club. The story also had allegations from an unnamed campaign worker that developers used Team Thomas as a vehicle to circumvent campaign finance laws.

Thomas has strongly defended the work of Team Thomas, calling it his “life’s work,” and casting his critics as politically motivated misanthropes. But he’s also been promising to release details about the non-profit since October, and doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to fulfill that promise. Meanwhile, the powers-that-be have rewarded Thomas with leadership of the council’s Committee on Economic Development.

Thomas has also been silent about the other Team Thomas, a for-profit venture that records show splits its time between giving free and expensive baseball lessons, supplying the city with baseball equipment, and providing catering, consulting, campaign materials, and computer services to Thomas’ political campaigns. And like the non-profit version of Team Thomas, the for-profit entity also raises lots of questions about its conduct.

The for-profit officially began life on Nov. 11, 2004, when Thomas registered HLT Team Thomas/SwingAway LLC with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. HLT are Thomas’ initials. The only problem is that the entity, which also goes by HLT Development, had already been awarded at least $75,000 worth of contracts from the city’s parks department before it was registered, city procurement records show. Those contracts included a $25,000 contract for clothing and equipment for coaches, referees and umpires; $24,236.50 for “baseball equipment”; and another $24,975 for “sports professional services.”

In 2005, Team Thomas/SwingAway brought in an additional $75,000 in city funds and partnered with the parks department to put out a coaches’ training manual. The manual included such sage advice as, “We must develop healthy reveries and view our opponents as positive giving them the respect that we all expect and deserve.”

The manual had a $10 price tag and lists Thomas’ e-mail address as “teamthomas@swingaway.com.” SwingAway is a Texas-based company that makes the aforementioned training tool involving a ball suspended on a string. A representative says the company was sold a few years ago; she didn’t know if Thomas had been a distributor for the previous owner. On the fliers promoting Thomas’ baseball instruction and free clinics, there was also a logo for another Thomas enterprise called “Focusgear,” a now-defunct website that sold athletic gear.

But HLT Development, or Team Thomas/SwingAway LLC if you prefer, wasn’t just about improving baseball swings or selling athletic gear. In 2006, the same year HLT Development received nearly $75,000 from the parks department for “professional services,” Thomas’ political campaign committee paid HLT Development $9,000 for catering, campaign materials, and repaying loans.

The Team Thomas brand was also on display during Thomas’ campaign. A 2006 Post story reported that Thomas and a group of teenagers participating in one of his clinics crashed a inspirational speech by a star of CSI: NY organized by one of Thomas’ political opponents. The teenagers were initially barred entry to the affair because they were wearing black mesh jerseys with the words “Team Thomas.”

The non-profit version of Team Thomas was registered with DCRA as a “domestic non-profit,” while the for-profit version was registered as a domestic LLC, but it’s not clear that the councilmember sees a difference between the two entities. At a November news conference he held to defend the non-profit version of Team Thomas, Thomas distributed the aforementioned flier and instruction manual covered in Team Thomas/SwingAway labels to reporters to give them a clearer idea of what Team Thomas was all about—even though those manuals and fliers were promoting a project of the for-profit organization. And when the attorney general’s office asked Thomas to describe what Team Thomas does, Thomas answered in a letter that Team Thomas/SwingAway is a “non-profit urban youth program that introduces boys and girls to swing sports.” (Thomas never bothered to register the non-profit entity with the Internal Revenue Service, so donations to it are not tax-deductible; he says he never claimed it was tax exempt.)

When LL tried to clarify with Thomas, he referred questions to his attorney Fred Cooke Jr., who did not respond to LL’s calls. Thomas did tell LL that “HLT is not the subject of any discussion that I’ve been involved in.”

A lack of distinction between the for-profit and the non-profit Team Thomases may be a problem. The Post editorial board first reported that the for-profit Team Thomas had its license revoked by DCRA in 2007, but it was listed in 2008 as the owner of a $60,000 Audi SUV, which a year later was transferred to Thomas (the person, not the team).

Also in 2008, campaign records show the Metropolitan Washington PAC, which represents landlords around town, transferred $150 to the for-profit Team Thomas. And last year, Thomas’ re-election campaign paid HLT Development $2,500 last year for “computer expenses.”

LL is no lawyer, but pulling in city contracts before you get a business license, then having that same business pull in money from political campaigns after its license has been revoked, doesn’t sound like a good plan. It might just be a case of sloppy paperwork, but coupled with the questions about the non-profit version of Team Thomas, LL would say Thomas has got some (more) explaining to do.

THE LEASE IS TOO DAMN HIGH

Readers with access to electricity may have seen on LL’s blog the news that taxpayers are paying nearly $4,000 a month so that Mayor Vince Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown can ride around in luxury Lincoln Navigators. To his credit, Brown said he was “appalled” when he learned of the cost, and has pledged to look into whether the city can get out of that $2,000-a-month lease.

Meanwhile, Gray’s camp raised its hands, said it was the police department’s responsibility to lease mayoral rides, and pointed out that previous mayors had enjoyed the same perk. With a city’s facing a $600 million budget gap, steep cuts to services and potential tax increases, LL asks you, sweet reader, who looked more in touch with the political zeitgeist in their response.

Obviously, LL doesn’t expect Gray to be poring over every contract personally. But it would sure be nice, in these times of tight budgets, if someone at the top got District employees in the mindset that expensive car leases might be worth a second glance. Even if the SUVs are, as the contracts specify, “fully loaded.”

Got a tip for LL? Send suggestions to lips@washingtoncitypaper.com.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • TheresaDudley,Teacher

    Them fat and ugly preachers in SE by 7D police 2465 Alabama Ave are just as disgraceful as Teemie Tommie. They are both greedy, ugly and procure funds for selfish reasons and I despise their kind. Them fat pig-feet-eating black females at that filthy church are stinky and one should not feed them or give funds to them or Teemie Tommie baseball snub/club.
    Pimping must be easy for the sleazy and the greasy.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Harry Thomas Jr.'s For-Profit Team Thomas: Just As Mysterious As the Non-Profit Team Thomas - Loose Lips - Washington City Paper -- Topsy.com

  • Rake

    One City, baby! What a bunch of crooks. Harry Thomas is a mess, and Vince's new attorney general will let him off the hook.

    Meanwhile, Vince, Kwame, Marion, and HLT will bring the city back to the control board days - as if anyone with half a brian couldn't see this coming.

  • Mike Madden

    4OURFUTURE --

    Suderman did not write or contribute to the Fenty endorsement.

  • samantha

    At least HLT cares about our Kids being involved in wholesome sports in neighborhoods that the Fenty Freaks have tried to destroy . Since Rake and Co love Dog Parks , he should be deemed" Chief Pooper ".

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    Samantha- come on now... really? As much disdain as I held for Fenty and his practices, there is no justifying what Thomas and camp has been doing. For the kids? At $350 a pop to hit a fucking ball on a string... come on now. Harry Thomas doesn't care about anyone but himself. Why create a for-profit with the same name as his non-profit. It just doesn't seem to be on the up and up and so far, it hasn't been. I can't sit and defend this kind of behavior. It just isn't right. And now this asshole has oversight on the most important committee in the District... oh Lord.

  • Rake

    @Samantha - huh? How does offering $375 baseball lessons demonstrate care for a neighborhood? And what neighborhoods do "Fenty Freaks" (I am not one, whatever that means) want to destroy? I'm curious, as the last administration spent more on education, and more in wards 7&8 than any prior administration, ever.

    Samantha, it's ok, just keep believing what the scared old folks tell you - ONE CITY!

  • Dan Driscoll

    Interesting, considering Harry Thomas, in a back-and-forth with me last year during my testimony in support of Ximena Hartsock, tried to attack local soccer organizations for charging modest participation fees (and attempted to cut me off when I pointed out these orgs offered no-questions-asked fee waivers to ensure no one was left out because of financial concerns).

    Oh yeah, and Mr. Thomas's youth baseball programs and other youth sports leagues all charged fees of their own.

  • noodlez

    LOOK IM NOT ONE TO DEFEND MR THOMAS AND IF HE POCKETED GOVT FUNDS THEN LOCK HIS ASS UP. BUT ALL THIS OVER $200k? HE MAY HAVE SHOOK DOWN SOME FOLKS TO DO BIZNEZZ IN HIS HOOD. BUT LETS BE REAL WHY DID NICKLES GO AFTER HIM AT THE ELEVENTH HOUR?

    THIS IS SOME BULL SHIT AND IS NOT WORTH THE TIME AND EFFORT THAT HAS BEEN SPENT AND WILL BE SPENT LOOKING INTO.

    GO AFTER THE MILLION DOLLAR CONTRACT SWIPERS THAT GOT THE MONEY ILLEGALLY UNDER FENTY, GO AFTER FAKE ASS ORGANIZATIONS WHO CLAIMED TO HELP FOLKS WHEN ALL THEY DID WAS PUT MONEY IN PEOPLES POCKET.

    @Rake-NO ONE IS BUYING INTO YOUR LIL FEAR TACTICS. YOU NEED TO WORRY ABOUT THE REPUBLICANS SNATCHING BACK YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE.

  • Sally

    Harry Thomas is a buffoon. It's that simple.

  • Rake

    Noodlez, you are too funny.

    First, you're not one to defend Thomas, but then spend the rest of the post defending him. Why?

    Thomas was investigated by the AG. Since then, Thomas has had multiple chances to "set the record straight". He hasn't, and more damning info comes out seemingly daily.

    So, "only $200k" isn't worth looking after, and can be taken, or misappropriated, in your opinion?

    Take that attitude, run up $1M in personal debt (because only $800k is so 2010), and you could be our next council chair!

    ONE CITY, lol.

  • Rake

    Oh, and Noodlez, in case you haven't been paying attention, Team Thomas is exactly the kind of "FAKE ASS ORGANIZATIONS (sic) WHO CLAIMED TO HELP FOLKS WHEN ALL THEY DID WAS PUT MONEY IN PEOPLES POCKET" that you want "them" to go after.

    At least be consistent.

    ONE CITY.

  • noodlez

    @Rake-MOFO I SAID IF HE TOOK THE DOUGH THEN LOCK HIS ASS UP! THE REST OF THE POST WAS DIRECTED AT SIMPLETONS LIKE YOURSELF WHO CANT SEE THE FOREST FROM THE TREES.

    HE WAS INVESTIGATED AFTER A REPUBLICAN TRIED TO OPPOSE HIM IN WARD 5. A REPUBLICAN TRIED TO OPPOSE HIM IN WARD 5. A REPUBLICAN IN WARD 5? I WOULD BE WILLING TO WAGER THAT SAID REPUBLICAN WAS PUT ON MR THOMAS' TRAIL. ACCORDING TO SUDERMANS REPORT THIS INFO HAS BEEN OUT THERE SINCE 2004 TO 2008! SO WHY NOW?

    TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION IF THE DC GOVT CAN SPEND $400K ON AN UNNECESSARY DOG PARK IN AN AREA THAT DOESNT NEED THE HELP FINANCIALLY THEN A QUESTIONABLE $200K REALLY ISNT WORTH SPENDING THE TIME INVESTIGATING.

    LIKE I SAID BEFORE AND I'LL SAY AGAIN IF HE FUNNELLED MONEY TO THE HOOD TO HELP FOLKS THROUGH QUESTIONABLE ACCOUNTING PRACTICES LIKE MY MAN CLAY DAVIS THEN I DONT HAVE A PROBLEM WITH IT BUT IF THE MONEY FOUND ITS WAY TO HIS POCKET FOR PERSONAL REASONS THEN HE SHOULD GO TO JAIL.

    SO STOP WITH ALL THE EMBELLISHMENTS AND CONCERN YOURSELF WITH MORE REAL ISSUES.

  • Rake

    So, I'm the one embellishing, and yet I have to wade through this conspiracy theory: "HE WAS INVESTIGATED AFTER A REPUBLICAN TRIED TO OPPOSE HIM IN WARD 5. A REPUBLICAN TRIED TO OPPOSE HIM IN WARD 5. A REPUBLICAN IN WARD 5? I WOULD BE WILLING TO WAGER THAT SAID REPUBLICAN WAS PUT ON MR THOMAS' TRAIL. ACCORDING TO SUDERMANS REPORT THIS INFO HAS BEEN OUT THERE SINCE 2004 TO 2008! SO WHY NOW?"

    Noodlez, you are hillarious. I hope you enjoy DC's slide back to the early 90s - "simpletons" like me won't be around to annoy once it occurs - I've lived through it once already.

    ONE CITY, under a control board, with graft and corruption for all!

  • noodlez

    YOU ARE ATYPICAL FLENTY BUTT PLUG.

    USEFULL WHEN THE OPPORTUNITY PRESENTS ITSELF BUT WHEN NOT IN USE YOU ARE JUST FULL OF SHIT!

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    Noodlez- As much disdain as I share with you on Fenty's shady dealings, I have to call you out of this defense of Thomas. Regardless of what Fenty did do in the past, it does not excuse what Thomas is doing presently. Shady and illegal behavior, regardless of the amount involved, is shady and illegal. Thomas needs to address this. I hate the fact that he's relying on his connections to save him from his fate. My hope is that Gray will have the courage to not back off from this and to have his AG pursue it with the same zeal that he is required to do by law. And while at it, go after Friends of Fenty for their dealings as well.

  • Rake

    @Adrian, exactly. Contrary to Noodlez's belief, I'm no Fenty supporter - just believed that he was, and is, better than our backwards looking "One City" coterie of incompetence and debt.

    @Noodlez, thanks for making even less sense than usual. Not to mention, how/why would a butt plug be full of S when it's not in use? Granted, from prior comments this seems to be more your area of expertise than mine, but enlighten me - or take that talk to whatever forum is appropriate - surely not a local political blog.

  • noodlez

    @ Adrian Bent-Me THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS MR NICKLES ACCOMPLISHED HIS GOAL.

    DISTRACT YOU WITH SOME NON-RELAVENT BULLSHIT BECAUSE IF IT WAS RELAVENT HE WOULD HAVE GONE AFTER MR THOMAS WHEN HE COULD HAVE SAW THIS ISSUE THROUGH TO THE END. TO START THIS AT THE LAST MINUTE WHEN HE KNEW HE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO BRING THIS ISSUE TO CONCLUSION SHOW EXACTLY WHY HE BROUGHT IT UP WHEN HE DID.

    WHILE WE ARE TALKING ABOUT MR THOMAS AND HIS MORE PRINCIPLE THAN MONEY PROBLEM WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT FOLK THAT ACTUALLY STOLE MONEY, DECEIVED THE CITY OF MAJOR FUNDS AND THE SERIOUS DOWNWARD SPIRAL MR. FENTY LEFT THIS CITY IN. THIS IS A NON-ISSUE JUST LIKE THE LEASES OF THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL CHAIR VEHICLES.

    RHEE'S BACKWARD BULLSHIT SHOULD BE TALKED ABOUT AND HOW MS HENDERSON IS PIECING BACK TOGETHER THAT FRAGILE FOUNDATION THAT MS FLAT ASS LEFT. KLEIN'S TOTAL FUCK UP OF THE STREETCAR DEAL SHOULD BE DISCUSSED AND INVESTIGATED AS TO WHY WE WOULD BUY STREETCARS WHEN THE PLAN WAS NOT TOTALLLY FINALIZED. IM STILL LEFT WONDERING WHERE THE $10K BIKE IS FOR BRINGING CYCLING TO THE CITY. WHY ISNT MS CATANIA BEING CALLED TO TASK ON THE AIDS EPIDEMIC AS COMMITTEE CHAIR BUT SOMEHOW SPEARHEADS INVESTIGATION ON MR BARRY? I MEAN I CAN GO ON AND ON. . .

    IN NO WAY AM I DEFENDING THOMAS JUST CLEARLY POINTING OUT THAT THIS CITY HAVE MUCH MORE SHIT TO WORRY ABOUT THAN MR. THOMAS SKIMMING $200K OFF THE TOP FROM 2004 TO 2008 WHEN ITS NOW 2011.

    MR GRAY IS ON THE RIGHT TRACK SO FAR NO MATTER HOW REVISIONIST THE HATERS PEGGED HIM AS.

    @Rake- “ Not to mention, how/why would a butt plug be full of S when it's not in use?” THINK ABOUT IT THEN GET BACK TO ME.

  • Rake

    I guess you're not one for cleanliness, eh Noodlez?

    And it's also funny that describing Vince as revisionist (which he is) makes me a hater - given your language in your posts, especially concerning Catania, Rhee, Fenty, and Klein, what does that make you?

  • Anothernative

    @Rake, That probably make's him a realist.

  • DC Respected Common People

    Commentators let's not attack each other, but simply stay focus on LL issues.

    As it relates to Skinner and Peaceoholics (The Embarrassing Moten making cartoon characters out of Thomas and Ugly Gray) receiving millions of non-competitive contractual dollars was Fenty's fault. Yet, the Chairman was to SCARED to sanction this past nutcracker of a Mayor, who permitted the KKK Nichols to run our city.

    Note, that Barry or Harry were fearful to sanction the Robot Fenty; however, the Chairman of the City Council was the real wimp.

    Today, Gray will KA to Federal City Council, DC Chambers, Girlfriend Lorrianne Green, upper fiscal class whites and Jews because he lacks masculinity backbone, and is the most Unattractive Oldest Male to uphold the chief executive position in our city.

    Rhee's academic improvements in Wards 4,5,6,7,8 or even 2 was the fault of the Fenty's Administration, as Council prioritized hearings after hearings w/o taking RESULTS.

    Harry's for-profit and non-profit issues lies with him, since the case moved from 2010 onto 2011 via the DC Superior Court. yes, he must turn over his spending because we need him in City Council.

    The KKK Peter Nichols with the Napoleon Complex is gone back to VA, where he can decided on what type of cases he would like to represent against the District. This short F was a nasty, inconsiderate control ugly freak, who had allies with Bi-sexual Evans (who dated Alex Pedro received earmarks never audited), Personality Control freak Catania (likes to experiment with Black and other minority youth, not his sexual peers the Fags) and even The inhouse Fag Graham (the true partner of Ted Loza recevied earmarks never audited).

    In summary, all of these parties must pay because they allowed funding activities to go w/o accountability.

    Since the 12 members had no problems sanctioning Barry, why in the hell was Evans exempted, Grahan not for his role in the Taxi Cab fraud and allowance of a Green Card holder to become a Chief of Staff in an elected office, Fenty for his failure to ignore the law and do as he pleased, Kwame for being in default as Chairman due to poor credit status, Harry's new Chief of Staff as evidence will show how Ayanna Chase now Ayanna Webster, his former sleeping partner signed all checks.

    What's puzzling, is how Harry allowed Chase-Webseter to supercede the position of COS that Lewis maintained four years ago. True, Lewis is an evil old witch but offers much more diversification and skills than short Big Breast could ever present.

    Maybe, the silence of not issuing the expenditures represents their agreement (Harry and Webster), as her husband a DC Cop must supervise this easy piece of property, who does whatever it takes to RISE w/o the less bit of integrity that her cooperation is necessary.
    Also, she will be the fall guy on this matter, since her signature is on all checks.

    So, let's not defend the truthful outcome for ALL noted above.

  • GREAT PEOPLE

    ALL THIS IS CRAZY. THE POINT OF THE MATTER IS THERE IS SOMEONE WHO IS UNHAPPY WITH THERE LIFE OR SITUATION AND THEY'RE TRYING TO BRING A POSITIVE ROLE MODEL DOWN WITH ALL THESE ALLIGATIONS. THIS MAN IS OUT HERE TO HELP OUR KIDS AND COMMUNITIES, INSTEAD OF TRYING TO BRING HIM DOWN HOW BOUT YOU GET OFF YOUR BUTT & OFF YOUR COMPUTERS AND HELP INPROVE OUR COMMINTIES AND CHIDREN ALSO.

  • Pingback: Bentonville Bubble » Walmart’s close friend in Washington DC

...