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Posted at 6:53 PM ET, 12/ 8/2010

Harry Thomas ordered to hand over nonprofit records -- but is it too late to matter?

By Mike DeBonis

After a two-month-long quest to get to the bottom of D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr.'s nonprofit dealings, Attorney General Peter J. Nickles won a significant victory today. But it may have come too late.

Superior Court Senior Judge Stephen F. Eilperin ruled today that Thomas must comply with Nickles' subpoena for records pertaining to the organization, dubbed Team Thomas, providing detailed financial records and other materials. But he does not have to do so until Jan. 8 -- six days after Nickles will be leaving his job.

Questions persist about Team Thomas, including who gave to the group, how money was spent, and how its funds were solicited. Thomas said he had taken trips with the group's money, related to its purpose of promoting youth sports.

Nickles had complained previously that Thomas was trying to "run out the clock" on his tenure -- that is, extend the deadline for compliance to beyond Nickles' departure date. It now appears that the clock may have run out.

That means that Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray will be handed a political hot potato as soon as he enters office. Though Nickles will be leaving, his deputies will remain, and they will continue to pursue old business until directed otherwise. It would be up to Nickles's replacement, and perhaps Gray himself, to direct otherwise.

But would Gray do that? The question has been put to him through his spokeswoman.

Nickles pointed out that Thomas "has been a big supporter of the chairman's. I'd like to believe that my successor would pursue the matter. It's a matter of high public interest. It goes to the whole question of integrity of the political process."

Thomas said he had not had time to review the ruling with his lawyer, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., but would do "whatever my attorney deems reasonable." Cooke declined to comment before he'd spoken with his client.

Nickles intimated that he might have other options for pursuing Team Thomas in his remaining time -- for instance, returning to court to ask for quicker compliance or attempting to force Thomas to give sworn oral testimony before month's end. He also said that could release damning information concerning Team Thomas on he had gathered -- "documents from outside sources" that indicate that some of the group's expenditures were improper.

"I'm not done," he said. "I've got another 20-some days; I've got a creative mind; and I don't like it when the law is being avoided. ... The day of reckoning is coming."

By Mike DeBonis  | December 8, 2010; 6:53 PM ET
Categories:  The District, Vincent Gray  
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