POLITICS

D.C. Council approves sweeping ethics bill, will discuss Thomas

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A D.C. Council committee has approved a sweeping ethics reform bill ahead of a meeting by the full Council to discuss potential action against a councilmember whose home was searched by federal authorities on Friday.

Embattled Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. is a member of the committee that approved the ethics bill but was not present for Monday's vote. Thomas is under investigation for allegedly diverting more than $300,000 in district funds for personal use. Agents spent more than eight hours searching his home on Friday and seized his SUV and motorcycle.

The council was planning to meet later Monday to discuss potential action against Thomas.

Yet members admitted they're powerless to remove Thomas.

“We're limited in what we can do,” said councilmember David Catania. “Those of us have called for his resignation still do and others may join him, but we cannot make him leave.”

The committee voted 3-1 to approve the ethics bill, which would create a board with the power to punish councilmembers for violations.

FBI agents were seen moving in and out of Thomas' home in the 2400 block of 17th Street NE on Friday morning.

After FBI agents left, Thomas was seen inside the house with two attorneys.

"We are cooperating,” said Karl Racine, one of his criminal defense attorneys.

See photos of the FBI search.

He is alleged to have used over $300,000 of city money for personal matters, including a luxury SUV, golf outings, travel and other personal matters.

The I.R.S was part of the search, which included another SUV and a motorcycle that were impounded.

The U.S. Attorney's office on Monday said Thomas had not been arrested or taken into custody.

"I continue to support the investigation into these allegations so that justice can run its course. For the sake of the District, I hope the investigation is concluded quickly," Mayor Vincent Gray says.

Thomas has been a lightning rod for controversy for the alleged misuse of city funds. At least three fellow members of the D.C. Council have called for him to resign.

He is alleged to have used over $300,000 of city money for personal matters, including a luxury SUV, golf outings, travel and other personal matters.

Thomas settled a lawsuit over the matter with the District's Attorney General shortly thereafter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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