Trust Chairwoman: More Than $200,000 in HTJ-Linked Grant Unaccounted For
More bad news for the Children & Youth Investment Trust Corporation: It can't account for more than $200,000 of a drug prevention grant connected to Harry Thomas Jr.'s embezzlement, according to chairwoman Windy Carson-Smith.
When District residents fill out their income tax forms, there's a voluntary check off box for donations to the the Public Fund for Drug Prevention and Children at Risk. Court records show that in early 2008 Thomas lobbied to have the fund's management transferred from the Department of Parks and Recreation to the CYITC, which you should know by now is the city funded nonprofit that Thomas used to steal more $350,000.
Former parks director Clark Ray says he was against the move, as his department needed the extra money. But Ray had little say in the matter, as the council voted to authorize the transfer. Ray, after reviewing his records, tells LL he signed off on the transfer of $342,137.81 to the CYITC in February 2009.
On Jan. 20, 2009, Thomas helped organize the 51st State Inaugural Ball at the Wilson Building. The event, despite a $51 ticket price, didn't raise enough money to cover expenses. Court records filed when Thomas pleaded guilty earlier this year show that Thomas' aide, Neil Rodgers, exerted "significant pressure" at Thomas' direction on DPR and the CYITC to complete the transfer of the drug prevention fund money on Feb. 3, 2009. The same day, Rodgers, again at Thomas' direction, emailed the CYITC asking if he could pick up a check for $110,00. When the CYITC's former director, Millicent West, balked at Thomas' suggestion that the trust pay the D.C. Young Democrats, Thomas instead had the trust pay a separate organization, the Youth Technology Institute, which acted as a pass-through for the $110,000, court records show.
But as for the remaining $230,000 or so from the drug prevention fund that wasn't used for the inaugural ball, it's apparently missing. LL got a tip about the missing money and asked Carson about it today. She confirmed that it's unaccounted for and added that CYITC's staff "did not bring that money forward in any financial statements."
A call to a CYITC spokeswoman was not immediately returned. A few weeks ago, the group's board abruptly fired CEO Ellen London. At a recent council hearing, the CYITC's financial controller, Michael Ahearn testified that the group's been unable to complete an audit for fiscal 2010 and said he recently found $1.1 million on the books that had been previously ignored.
And if you wanted any more proof of how small a town D.C. can be, consider this: Carson-Smith (who is married to former Ward 1 Councilmember Frank Smith) says she and Thomas used to date in the '80s, when she was a council aide for then-Councilmember John Ray (now one of the best paid local lobbyists in town) and Thomas' father was the Ward 5 councilmember.
She then clarified that she and Thomas went on exactly one date. Carson-Smith declined to say why Thomas only got one date, other than to say: "You have to be a judge of who you want to spend your life with."
So did that one date have any influence how the CYITC treated requests from Thomas? Absolutely not, says Carson-Smith, who joined the board in 2008.