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Nickles, Thomas will battle in court

D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) has been ordered into court Tuesday morning for a hearing about whether he has to comply with a subpoena from Attorney General Peter Nickles over his fundraising activities.

Earlier Monday, Nickles filed a "petition for immediate enforcement" with the D.C. Superior Court over his request for documents related to Team Thomas, a nonprofit that Thomas operates that isn't registered with the Internal Revenue Service.

Nickles wants information on the group's donors and expenditures, which Thomas has not released to the public.

Nickles said a hearing has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in Superior Court.

"Since he is not willing to do it voluntarily or by subpoena, we now need a court order, which is extraordinary," Nickles said. "This is a very unusual situation where a council member has refused to provide a single document."

Thomas's attorney, Frederick D. Cooke, said he plans to fight Nickles's subpoena, arguing that he does not have the "authority" to demand the documents from a council member.

Cooke said Thomas plans to voluntarily release the information, but will not do so under pressure from Nickles.

"If it were not for this crazy litigation, he probably would have released it today," Cooke said. "We have never said to Peter and never said to anyone else, this is not information we did not want and did not believe should be public, but we do not believe Mr. Nickles has the authority to do this."

Cooke refused to explain his legal justification for arguing that Nickles did not have the authority to issue the subpoena. He said he will appear in court on Thomas's behalf and was unsure whether his client will also be there.

In a letter sent to Nickles last week, Cooke said the investigation into Thomas was politically motivated. Thomas has been a frequent critic of Nickles and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).

"He wants to muscle in and prove to people he has power that I don't think he has," Cooke said in an interview.

Nickles scoffs at suggestions he's being vindictive, arguing that he's merely trying to keep public officials accountable for how they use their offices to raise money.

"Allegations have been made about contributions sought by an entity advertised on (Thomas's) Web site, and we asked for the documents, which is pretty ordinary," Nickles said.

-- Tim Craig

By Tim Craig  | November 1, 2010; 4:53 PM ET
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Funny, you didn't act with such urgency to fill all those backlogged FOIA requests, Nickles. You and Rhee really slay me with your "last hurrah" moments. Hurry and crawl back under the rock whence you've come!

Posted by: BitterJill | November 1, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Nickles should be ashame but that would require dignity and morals.

Posted by: CultureClub | November 1, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Peter Nickles' very aggressive efforts to get documents from Council member Harry Thomas is contrary to his willingness to comply with the release of information. It was not long ago that Peter Nickles refused to turn over economic development records to the City Auditor concerning questionable contract deals between the Fenty Administration and the former Anacostia Waterfront Corp. and the National Capital Revitalization. Even after the City Auditor received two Court orders requiring the records to be disclosed, Attorney General Nickles appealed the court orders claiming that the auditor's document request as too burdensome. The fact is that Nickles actions is nothing more than a personal and vindictive attack against the Council member , because he has been an outspoken critic of Nickles and the Mayor. It is this kind of self serving conducted that lead to the defeat of Fenty at the polls. It will be a relief when Nickles is gone.

Posted by: blkbadge5 | November 1, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Cooke has a point and a good track record in the courts. This is about principle. Peter Nickles is being given this last and final "go to hell" moment.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | November 2, 2010 6:54 AM | Report abuse

The hypocrisy of Peter Nickles knows no bounds.

Posted by: politicsdc | November 2, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Nickles is behaving exactly as he has since he became AG.
He is being vindictive, arbitrary and mean-spirited.

Posted by: 2belinda | November 2, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

It's time the people of the District of Columbia are delegated the right to elect the Attorney General. 43 states attorneys general are elected by their citizens, so what makes our brand of democracy in the District so exceptional that we need not be given a choice for this office? Council members need the check of an independently elected authority so that in instances like this, when allegations are made against an elected official, the response of their office is open and accountable. Lets not forget that actively running an unregistered non-profit that takes money from businesses and potentially funnels it towards your campaign or your pocket is as serious a fraud as a politician can commit. But prosecuting that crime is trivialized when its clear that the AG is the Mayor's lackey. Whats worse, this issue is more important to Nickles than the accounting fraud committed by Kwame Brown's campaign, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars vanishing into thin air. I want statehood and representation as much as the next guy, but we won't get it as long as the head of our legislature - who determines the budget and runs the committee of finance and revenue - steals from his campaign and defaults on his personal debt.

Posted by: smart-aleck | November 2, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Fred Cooke. The Council is a seperate branch of the government and the AG has no investigative authority over the Council. I believe the IG could do it, or the Office of Campaign Finance, and of course the D.C. Auditor.

Posted by: tacard1 | November 2, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Local politics in this town is all around rotten and dirty! Harry Thomas is running a "charity" that is unregistered with the IRS and local DC authorities, which it is legally required to be by the way. Yet, people are more concerned with Peter Nickles going after him than they are with the fact that he is an elected public official who is almost certainly involved in unetcical and/ or illegal behavior. Give me a break! I live in ward 5 and I can remeber well that he was investigated regarding quid pro quo allegations around the timing of donations to organizations that were controlled by individuals in his inner circle. It's just my opinion but I think the guy is rotten!

Posted by: blk-ml | November 2, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

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