Columbia councilman facing criminal charge for affordable housing proposal

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COLUMBIA - The Cole County prosecutor confirmed Thursday his office filed a criminal charge against Columbia City Councilman Ian Thomas in connection to discussions Thomas had with a developer related to affordable housing.

In his regular newsletter, Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas said he has learned he will be charged with an attempt to commit an act prohibited by an elected official, a class C misdemeanor.

In a news release sent Thursday morning, prosecutor Locke Thompson said "from October 2018 through November 2018, Mr. Thomas engaged in negotiations and made a promise to vote for a land development bid, as well as influence other members of the City Council to vote for the bid, contingent on a $40,000.00 payment to the Columbia Land Trust."

Thomas said he made an error in judgment, but not at a level he believes merits a criminal charge.

Earlier in the year, investigators started looking into Thomas' actions after he allegedly offered his support for a rezoning request in exchange for a donation to the city.

In Thursday's newsletter, Thomas said he "acknowledged and apologized for [his] poor judgement" while asserting "there would have been no benefit for [him]" and he didn't realize he was doing anything wrong. Thomas added when the city attorney told him the proposal may be illegal, he canceled it immediately and self-reported to the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Thomas said he plans to plead not guilty to the charge and defend himself in court.