By Carol Rock
U.S. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon released a statement Tuesday detailing the criminal history of his new district director, Morris Thomas.
The statement came in response to an inquiry from KHTS and SCVNews.com after McKeon announced Monday that he was hiring Thomas, the 64-year-old general manager of The Signal newspaper in Valencia, to serve as his top staffer in California.
Readers asked the two news organizations about Thomas’ biographical information. McKeon’s press release on Monday said Thomas had attended UCLA Law School but did not indicate he had been a practicing attorney. A routine search of California State Bar Association records revealed the following:
Morris Thomas was admitted to the California Bar on May 29, 1981, but on March 7, 1992, was suspended after a conviction and became ineligible to practice law. On May 7, 1992, he tendered his resignation from the Bar because of the charges and resigned completely with charges pending on July 31, 1992.
Current status: Resigned with charges pending. This member is resigned and may not practice law in California.
McKeon’s office was asked Monday to explain the entries in Thomas’ Bar Association record. On Tuesday, McKeon’s spokeswoman Alissa McCurley issued the following statement:
“Over 20 years ago, Morris Thomas was convicted of a felony in connection with his legal representation of a client. While practicing law in the late 1980′s, Thomas was retained by a client to recover funds that had been seized from the client by authorities. After the funds were recovered, a dispute developed between the client and the client’s other attorneys from an out of state law firm over who the recovered funds should be turned over to. Thomas asserted that the mediation of this dispute had consumed his original agreed upon retainer, and that the recovered funds were due to him for payment of his incurred expenses and legal fees. Thomas, in violation of the law and legal ethics, refused to turn over any of the money and converted it to his own use.
Although Thomas challenged the charges against him in a jury trial, he assumed total responsibility for his actions. Thomas was convicted of one count of grand theft, and was sentenced accordingly. Thomas served a 1 and 1/2 years sentence as a result of his conviction. His conviction also resulted in Thomas’ resignation from the California State Bar in 1992.
Morris Thomas has since dedicated his life to serving his family and his community, and has become a positive fixture in Santa Clarita. Morris has continued to aspire to become a model parent and citizen through his participation in numerous charities and professional organizations such as:
AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) Coach and Board member
Santa Clarita United Soccer Club (coach and Bd member)
Single Mothers Outreach (Bd member)
Santa Clarita Valley YMCA Board of Managers
Santa Clarita Chamber of Commerce (Bd member)
Economic Development Corporation (Exec. Bd member)
The SCV Boys & Girls Club
The Hoefflin Foundation
The Santa Clarita Senior Center
The Child and Family Center
McCurley’s email included statements from Thomas and the congressman.
Morris Thomas wrote:
“After paying my debt to society in 1992, with 2 step children and 3 daughters of my own, I commenced a journey to try to redeem myself. That was a very dark time for me, one that I am deeply regrettable for. However, because of the mistakes I made and the dear price I paid for them, I was able to emerge as a better person. As a result, I came to understand what was truly important and I became completely devoted to my family and my community. I have never made any excuses for the bad decisions I made, and have always taken full responsibility for my actions. All I can ask is that the people of the 25th District judge me not for the mistakes I made in the past, but for my proven dedication to our community.”
“During my tenure as the Congressman for this area, I have had the chance to meet many people across the 25th Congressional District. Since meeting Morris, I have come to admire him. I have observed firsthand the various positive roles he has played for the betterment of our community, and have heard from folks across the district who respect him and praise him for all he has done for our hometown.
“Recently, when I had an opening on my staff for the district director position, I reached out to Morris to discuss his interest in serving as my “Ambassador” in the community. We had a good discussion about how to move forward a positive agenda for the benefit of my constituents in the 25th Congressional District. At that time Morris disclosed his regrettable mistake he made over 20 years ago and the price he paid personally for making such a bad decision.
“As a man of faith, I am a believer in forgiveness and giving people a second chance. Morris has paid his debt to society and has accepted penalties that will follow him throughout his lifetime. Despite this, Morris has become a stalwart in the community. He deserves a second chance and therefore has my full support in his new role as District Director for my district office operations. His impact on our district has been a positive one and look forward to him continuing to serve in this capacity.”