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    Sunday
    Jul222012

    On sentencing day, Ward 5 residents split on Harry Thomas Jr.

    May 2, 2012
    Liz Farmer
    Washington Examiner

    As their former council member is set to be sentenced in federal court Thursday, the District's Ward 5 residents are split among those who forgive Harry Thomas Jr. and those who don't.

    Bob King, the longest-serving advisory neighborhood commissioner in the city and a Ward 5 resident, said the split tends to fall along racial and age lines.

    "When you talk with the seniors, they're very passionate about their love for Thomas," said King, who also worked on Thomas' 2006 election campaign. "But it's also true ... that candidates are hearing from people, 'If I vote from you, will you steal the money?' There's a lot of shame and anger."

    And even as residents and officials are looking for closure Thursday with Thomas' sentencing, the investigation into the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. continues. Thomas used the corporation to funnel more than $350,000 in grant money into his pockets, and both the feds and the city are still looking into how that happened.

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    Friday
    Jul202012

    Former exec: Pressure from city leaders aided misuse of funds

    April 28, 2012
    Liz Farmer
    Washington Examiner Staff Writer

    The organization that a former D.C. councilman used to steal money from kids became inundated by pet projects of the former administration and council members, a former board member told The Washington Examiner.

    The result was that private funding for the city-run Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. nearly dried up as foundations' faith in the organization's political independence plummeted, said former board chair John Hill. The trust typically hands out between $14 million and $19 million annually.

    When the trust was founded in 1999, private funders were often able to stipulate where their money went and work with local nonprofits to maximize results, Hill said.

    "And all of that changed when the administration changed [to former Mayor Adrian Fenty], and there was a feeling that there should be greater control over where the money went within the government," Hill said. "That's certainly what [former] Councilmember Harry Thomas exploited and also what led to concerns by outside funders."

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    Friday
    Jul202012

    No swearing rule highlights D.C. council tensions

    February 21, 2012
    Liz Farmer
    Washington Examiner Staff Writer

    The D.C. Council has banned swearing from all its public meetings after a dustup last week between two members at a council retreat led to outrage from some residents.

    But the swift action pushed through by Council Chairman Kwame Brown on the matter has some people saying the ban is just meaningless posturing.

    At-Large Councilman David Catania, whose expletive-laced outburstlast week at Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry prompted the change to the council code of conduct, said he's still not apologizing for swearing at another member -- although he did vote in favor of Tuesday's resolution.

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    Friday
    Jul202012

    D.C. auditor says more fraud possible in city grants

    January 23, 2012
    Liz Farmer
    Washington Examiner Staff Writer

    A District auditor has warned that more fraud could lie ahead if the D.C. Council does not immediately take steps to enforce better oversight by the city organization that former Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. used to embezzle more than $300,000.

    In a letter to Council Chairman Kwame Brown, City Auditor Yolanda Branche said a lack of sufficient internal controls "enabled the embezzlement" of District funds.

    "We strongly urge the Council to immediately take steps toward restoring the public trust and protecting the resources of the District of Columbia from further fraud mismanagement and abuse by implementing the recommendations in this memorandum," Branche said.

    The memo was written in response to Brown's request for

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    Friday
    Jul202012

    City hall rocked by charges against one of their own

    January 6, 2012
    Liz Farmer
    Washington Examiner Staff Writer

    The District's John A. Wilson Building was the scene of frantic scrambling for information and then shock and sadness Thursday as city hall officials and staff members absorbed the news that their colleague Harry Thomas Jr. faced prison time on charges of stealing from the city.

    "He's disgracing himself, the District and his family," said Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh. "It's really been a lot to take on. I don't think he's a bad person -- I've known him for four years and I consider him my friend. But nobody's above the law."

    Thomas said he would plead guilty in court Friday to the theft and tax fraud that federal prosecutors said began just months after he entered office in 2007. He resigned from office "effective immediately," according to a statement issued Thursday night.

    In that statement, he acknowledged that he had caused pain to his family, friends and constituents.

    "I made some poor decisions and acted in ways I simply should not have," he said in the statement. "I was wrong. I want to apologize to those I have let down, including my constituents, neighbors and friends."

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