The press, politicians and the public sounded off on D.C. Councilmember Harry Thomas, who last week agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a suit with the District’s Attorney General.
Thomas is accused of spending charitable money on personal and campaign expenses and misusing taxpayer money.
Thomas has agreed to repay $300,000 over the next two years, with an initial payment of $50,000 paid Friday. In exchange, the District has agreed to drop its lawsuit.
Councilmember Mary Cheh called on Thomas to resign his office.
"In Mr. Thomas' settlement, he was not required to and did not admit to any wrongdoing; nevertheless it appears that he inappropriately diverted public money intended for youth activities to his own benefit," Cheh said in a statement issued to the press Saturday. "This implicit acknowledgment will, I believe, make it very difficult for him to continue to effectively serve the citizens of the District, and, therefore, I hope he will seriously consider stepping off the Council."
The suit against Thomas claimed that he illegally used grants earmarked for the D.C. council and charitable donations for personal use. He was accused of buying a luxury SUV, going on golfing holidays and publishing political materials with the money.
Thomas had denied any wrongdoing. In a statement, he reiterated that he allegations aren't true. He said he settled because it was in the best interests of the city.
The Washington Post editorial board wrote: "Thomas's continued service on the council is an affront that should not be tolerated any longer. ... if Mr. Thomas did nothing wrong, why did he agree to give the city $300,000? Where will the money come from? How come he has never accounted - despite repeated promises - for his actions?"
Many echoed those sentiments on the streets of Ward 5, Thomas’ ward.
Mishelle Mitchell, a Northeast resident, worried that he might steal “more money” and repeat the alleged offenses.
But just as many came to his defense, saying that Thomas seemed like an upstanding elected official.
“He's always appeared to me to be fair, well-spoken, and a round-a-bout character in all areas of his life,” said Northeast resident John Harris.