Brown (I-At Large), the council’s president pro-tempore, amended his finance reports 2 1/2 months after he first alerted authorities and the public that he believed a “substantial” amount of money had been stolen.
After initially saying little about what he calls “embezzlement,” Brown made a brief appearance before reporters in front of the John A. Wilson Building on Tuesday afternoon.
“Frankly, I don’t believe being a victim of a crime reflects badly on the campaign,” said Brown. “I think it reflects badly on the thief. . . . I feel profoundly betrayed.”
Brown’s allegations of what election observers say would be one of the largest thefts from a city political campaign is the latest blow to the image of a District government reeling from an ongoing federal investigation into Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s (D) 2010 election effort. Over the past 10 months, two D.C. Council members, including the former council chairman, have been forced from office after being charged with federal crimes.
Brown’s campaign troubles surfaced just as he’s gearing up for a race to return to a D.C. Council seat reserved for a non-Democrat.
One of Brown’s opponents, Mary Brooks Beatty (R), called on Brown to withdraw his candidacy. “Throughout his time in office, Council member Brown has demonstrated a loose commitment to professional ethics and accountability,” Beatty said in a statement. “The people of Washington D.C. need an election focused on making the District a better place to live and not the campaign problems of Council member Michael Brown.”
The son of late commerce secretary Ron Brown, Michael Brown joined the council in 2009 and was regarded as a potential mayoral candidate. But Brown has struggled with his personal finances, including failure to pay his rent, mortgage and taxes on time.
Also, after his 2008 campaign, an OCF audit found that Brown’s campaign had written nearly $81,000 in checks that were returned because of insufficient funds, failed to report $121,000 in expenditures, and wrote seven checks worth a total of $16,042 payable to “cash” in violation of city rules.
Brown said he discovered that the 2012 campaign funds were missing after reviewing bank statements this summer. He dismissed his campaign treasurer, Hakim Sutton, and called police. Sutton has declined comment, and did not return messages on Tuesday.
Gwendolyn Crump, a police spokesman, said Tuesday that D.C. police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are conducting “a very active investigation.” OCF is also investigating.
OCF initially said Brown did not have to disclose how much money was missing while the office conducted its investigation. But Brown was forced to update his filings after council candidate David Grosso (I) demanded that the Board of Elections require Brown to more accurately account for the missing funds. Election officials eventually ordered Brown to file an amended report.