After unsuccessfully running as a Democrat for mayor in 2006 and the Ward 4 council seat in 2007, Brown launched his at-large bid in spring 2008 after becoming an independent.
Thomas, a Philadelphia-based strategist brought in to manage the campaign, said within weeks “it was pretty clear there were some major, major issues” with Brown’s oversight.
“He was generally never on time for anything and didn’t take it seriously when he was there,” recalled Jeff Yurcan, Brown’s first finance director in 2008, who left with Thomas that September. “He was kind of like, he was just going to sit around and let us get him elected.”
Yet with access to a local and national network of supporters with fond memories of his father, who died in a plane crash in 1996, Brown managed to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But the former aides say the campaign struggled to keep track of how the money was spent and suffered from poor documentation. Henson and Thomas pinned part of the blame on what they called a blurred wall between Brown’s campaign and personal finances.
The 2009 audit revealed 17 campaign expenditures totaling $9,139 that were not paid out of the committee’s bank account, as well as seven checks totaling $16,042 that were improperly made payable to cash. According to an OCF review of bank statements, Brown had also loaned his campaign $25,265 without reporting it in a timely manner.
Brown eventually reconciled his campaign finance reports. But OCF officials said they could not provide supporting documentation with their audit because they turned those records over to the U.S. attorney’s office at its request in February. A spokesman for the office, which earlier this year requested fundraising records for several council members, declined to comment.
Henson, who specializes in urban races, said the Brown campaign often had to use cash — sometimes directly from Brown’s pocket — to pay its bills because it had so much trouble preventing checks from bouncing. Forty-nine bounced checks were documented in the audit.
“I have never been on a campaign that had that much financial discombobulation, and I believe it’s because of the candidate,” said Henson, who spent one month in jail this summer after he was convicted of conspiracy to violate campaign laws when he worked on former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich’s (R) 2010 campaign. “If there was a lady working in the office who hadn’t been paid, he would go into his pocket and pull out $400.”
Henson, Simmons, Yurcan and Thomas all said they were not surprised by Brown’s dispute with Sutton over the missing funds this year.“No one who has worked for Michael seems to have a good time,” Yurcan said.
Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.