D.C.

Ayawna Webster pleading guilty to using public money for inaugural ball

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A one-time staff member to disgraced former D.C. Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. will plead guilty in an incident where more than $100,000 in public money was used to pay for a 2009 inaugural ball.

Ayawna Webster, who served under Thomas during his time representing Ward 5 on the D.C. Council, will admit to funneling $104,500 in public grant toward an unnamed political organization. That money, in turn, was used to finance the 51st State Inaugural Ball.

That ball was held on Jan. 20, 2009, the day that President Barack Obama was sworn into office for his first term. According to a court filing, Webster was serving as the president of the unnamed, partisan political organization.

In that role, Webster was tasked with planning and organizing the inaugural ball.

Prosecutors say that Webster also falsified and failed to file tax forms for the organization for nearly two years in an attempt to conceal where the money went.

The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis recalled the 51st State Ball, which was held at the Wilson Building in downtown Washington, as a bizarre one where no alcohol was served, no one checked coats and the late Chuck Brown performed.

In DeBonis' recollection from last January, he names the political organization as the D.C. Young Democrats.

Thomas resigned in January of 2012, just hours after he was charged with embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city. He pleaded guilty last May to the embezzlement of $350,000 that was earmarked for youth sports programs in the District and was sentenced to 38 months in prison.

His downfall was one in a series of high-profile scandals that have cost several D.C. Councilmembers their jobs, including former D.C. Council chairman Kwame Brown (bank fraud) and at-large councilman Michael Brown (bribery).

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