Subpoena Power Will Help Probe of Thomas; Graham Focus on Abetters in Thefts

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Howell Jr., THE WASHINGTON TIMES

D.C. Council member Jim Graham is using his oversight powers to launch a formal investigation into whether staff at a public-private nonprofit and perhaps others paved the way for former council member Harry Thomas Jr. to pocket more than $350,000 in city funds intended for youth sports programs.

Mr. Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, also plans to convene a blue ribbon task force of stakeholders from the private sector to discuss reforms or a restructuring of the Children & Youth Investment Trust Corp., after a lengthy inquiry by his Committee on Human Services indicated that lax oversight by the trust enabled the disgraced politician's scheme.

Mr. Graham and committee members Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, and Michael A. Brown, at-large independent, adopted a resolution Friday to provide the committee with subpoena power in their investigation.

But first, Mr. Graham had to ensure committee members that he will keep them in the loop during the investigation and not wield their subpoena powers too loosely. He also pledged to respect the boundaries between their oversight function and an ongoing probe by the U.S. attorney.

We are not interested in a criminal inquiry here at all, Mr. Graham said from the dais. But what we are interesting in doing is having an investigation that will lead to the restoration of confidence in the trust.

He said that some people have refused to cooperate with his inquiries into the trust, but that they may change their minds once they face a formal investigation.

Mr. Graham said the investigation could include document-gathering and testimony at public hearings, although it is unclear whether it will reach the high-profile status of a council investigation last year into actions by Mayor Vincent C. Gray's campaign and transition teams.

Mr. Barry encouraged Mr. Graham not to let the investigation turn into a big spectacle or a field day for the media.

Mr. Graham's committee interviewed key players and reviewed more than 1,500 emails before drafting a report on how Thomas, Ward 5 Democrat, and his staff were able to influence trust officials and fast-track money to the Langston 21st Century Foundation, a golf-related nonprofit in Thomas' ward, from 2007 to 2009. …