Green denies wrongdoing, refuses to answer questions about Brooks

May 13, 2011

Mayoral confidante Lorraine A. Green denied any wrongdoing Friday during testimony before a D.C. Council committee investigating hiring practices of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s administration, but the hearing was abruptly recessed after she declined to answer questions about conversations she had with a campaign consultant regarding Sulaimon Brown.

Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) asked Green about her conversations with Howard Brooks, a consultant who was paid $44,000 by the Gray campaign. She declined to answer because of a probe by the U.S. attorney’s office into Brown’s claims that during the campaign, she and Brooks paid him to continue his attacks on Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).

When asked whether Brooks had expressed any opinion about Brown’s allegations, she turned to her attorney, Thomas C. Green, and said, “Upon advice of counsel, the discussions I’ve had with Mr. Brooks may intrude on the investigation.”

Green, who headed the Gray campaign and transition, acknowledged that she and Brooks have a “close, personal relationship” and talk “almost daily.” Brooks and his son, Peyton Brooks, who was hired by the administration but later resigned, have asserted the Fifth Amendment privilege and declined to testify.

Green, Brooks and Gray (D) have denied Brown’s allegations. At the hearing, Green again categorically denied making any payments to Brown and said the mayor promised Brown only a “job interview.”

The long-awaited hearing shed little new light on the administration’s personnel practices and elicited more details about Green’s interactions with Brown, who she said demanded in November to be named “deputy mayor of finance” at $185,000 a year.

“Not only was he delusional . . . the deputy mayor job never existed,” Green said.

Green described the conversation as contentious and said she had no other conversations with Brown after the call Nov. 29, the same day Brown texted Gray about his disappointment at not getting jobs for him and his brother.

She said that, earlier in the campaign, she found Brown’s attacks on Fenty “distasteful” and not helpful to Gray’s election. But Green said she never shared her views with Brown during several phone conversations they had during the campaign. Gray has also called Brown’s attacks “offensive.” But when it was initially disclosed that Brown landed a job in his administration, Gray defended him as qualified to be a $110,000-a-year special assistant in the Department of Health Care Finance.

At the hearing before the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment, Catania and council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) repeatedly asked Green why someone considered “a pest” and “unstable” was eventually hired by the administration.

Catania said “it defies logic” that Brown received “the friends- and-family treatment” that appeared to be afforded to a select few whose background checks and vetting were completed before Gray took office.

Green said that she was not involved in the hiring but that she told Gerri Mason Hall, Gray’s then-chief of staff, to set up an interview for Brown during a “30-second” phone conversation in late December. “What I was trying to do is live up to the commitment of the mayor that [Brown] would get an interview,” she said.

In text messages Brown sent to Green’s cellphone Jan. 7 and provided to The Washington Post, Brown again expressed disappointment about not being employed by the administration. “Thank you for not keeping your word . . . I’m not going to sit back and let you screw me and my family. It won’t happen . . . Lying to me is one thing, but my brother, that’s diffrent.”

A text message from Green’s phone read: “Who is this? What are you talking about?”

“This is Sulaimon Brown and I’m talking about the childish unnessary games your playing,” Brown wrote. “I’m done playing. You can keep the job. I’m going to plan B and C.”

A message from Green’s phone read: “I have no idea what you are talking about. I thought you met with the chief of staff about an audit position and everything was fine.”

Thomas C. Green (no relation) said his client’s text about the audit position was about the promised job interview, not a position with the administration.

Brown said Friday that Green is “delusional” about her recollection of events.

During the hearing, Cheh noted Green’s cooperation with the council’s investigation as contrasted with the refusal of Cherita Whiting, who was hired and resigned from the administration, and Brown to testify. The committee voted Friday to enforce subpoenas against Brown and Whiting and to compel the testimony of Peyton Brooks, whose Fifth Amendment privilege will be challenged by the committee.

Brown, a 40-year-old unemployed auditor, said he is cooperating with the U.S. attorney’s office and a congressional committee that is also investigating his allegations. The Washington Post has not been able to independently verify Brown’s claims of payments.

Beyond Brown’s allegations, Green testified that she was not involved in hiring decisions, though Catania said e-mails show that she sent her daughter’s resume to Hall. Green said she sent the resume but had no influence. “She has never gotten a job because of me,” Green said.

Leslie Green, who makes $85,000 a year as senior communications director in the Office of Motion Picture and Television Development, and Crystal Palmer, director of that agency, both testified at an earlier hearing that Palmer approached her to work there.

But Catania questioned the veracity of their testimony. “You see, there’s no e-mail traffic. There’s no evidence . . . that she actually asked for your daughter,” he said.

Lorraine Green said, “Everyone’s not lying.”

Leslie Green was among five adult children of members of the administration or campaign who were hired.

Although Gray initially defended their employment, he later said he was unaware that they were hired, with the exception of Leslie Green. The other four children, including those of Hall, Brooks and Gray spokeswoman Linda Wharton Boyd, have resigned.

Nicholas Hall, Hall’s son, also testified Friday but in executive session. According to Cheh, Hall said that he was not interviewed but that he gave his resume to his mother. He received an offer a month later for a job at the Department of Parks and Recreation, where officials were unaware of his placement.

Judy Banks, the administration’s former interim human resources director, called him on his cellphone and told him she would work it out, according to Cheh’s recollection of Hall’s testimony. Hall requested private testimony, which will be transcribed and made public, because of a medical condition.

At the hearing, Lorraine Green said that she was not aware of the hiring of other adult children “until after it happened” but that she and the mayor were “distressed.”

When asked about bonuses for campaign staff members, including Brooks, Green said she was not involved in any financial decisions. But she acknowledged that she and the mayor discussed who would receive “win bonuses” at the end of the campaign.

“I don’t think [Brooks] was one of the people that he hired that he was going to give win bonuses to,” she said.

Glenn F. Ivey, Brooks’s attorney, said he did not know whether Gray approved Brooks’s bonus.

Ivey said he endorsed the committee’s decision to recess the hearing because “questions about giving money to Brown could intrude on the U.S. attorney’s investigation — especially since they announced they would be looking at that allegation.”

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