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Former DC councilman pleads guilty to bank fraud

By Eric Tucker

Associated Press

Published: Friday, June 8 2012 9:46 a.m. MDT

Investigators in March also raided the home and offices of Jeffrey Thompson, a well-connected government contractor who was a major contributor to Gray's campaign and to other local officials.

"It's disheartening to say the least, especially when I had supported some of those people who are now under investigation," said Laina Aquiline, a neighborhood leader in the northwest Washington community of Columbia Heights.

There's nothing new about political scandals in the capital city. Marion Barry drew national attention when, as mayor, he was caught on video smoking crack cocaine in 1990. He served six months in prison for cocaine possession. Barry staged a comeback, winning a fourth and final term as mayor, when Congress seized control of city government following years of poor fiscal stewardship. Barry returned to the council in 2004 and has kept his seat despite other legal troubles.

While Brown and Thomas have left the council, an investigation of city leaders continues.

The allegations come at a delicate time for the city, as district advocates have been lobbying Congress for more autonomy on fiscal affairs. Although district residents were given the freedom to elect a mayor and city council in 1973, Congress has the final say over the district's budget and laws.

Nick Jeffress, executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee, said the scandals should make voters think extra hard about electing honest leaders who will have the clout and respect to push the statehood cause.

"We need to have that at the forefront of our minds — who are we electing and what sort of baggage might they bring," Jeffress said. "We need to focus on electing councilmembers who in turn will be able to lobby, hopefully with greater results, to Congress."

But Aquiline said she wasn't convinced the scandals would harm the movement.

"My personal hope would be that it would actually work in the opposite fashion," Aquiline said. "I actually think you would have more well-qualified citizens for such a position if we believed that our voice had any power."

Council members will meet next week to select an interim chair from among four at-large members. Cheh said the city government is still functioning and officials will work to win back trust.

But, she noted, "This is a stain on the government."

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