A tearful Sulaimon Brown, a $110,000 special assistant in the administration of D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, said he was furious that he was fired and was escorted by security out of his office Thursday, after media reports had surfaced this week about his salary and a possible criminal past.
Brown, a minor mayoral candidate in last year’s Democratic primary, stunned reporters when he showed up uninvited at a news briefing at which the mayor was addressing the termination and brush with Protective Services that had occurred that morning.
It was a bizarre continuation of a media firestorm that has surrounded the mayor this week. Gray has fielded criticism about high salaries paid to top aides, nepotism, cronyism and controversy surrounding sport-utility vehicles requested by D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D). The incident also raised questions about the vetting process used by Gray’s transition team.
A Washington City Paper article published Wednesday listed a 1991 gun charge that later was dropped and a 2007 restraining order. Officials in the mayor’s administration became alarmed when they later learned that the restraining order involved allegations of stalking a 13-year-old girl, according to a D.C. police source who requested anonymity because he did not have authority to speak publicly.
Brown, who is on paid administrative leave with a departure date of March 11 from the Department of Health Care Finance, denied knowing about the stalking allegation. “I’ve never been served anything. It’s just more lies,” said Brown, who added that he used to be a police officer.
“I have a 4-month-old son. His father needs a job. Period,” he said through tears. “They let me go out without respect and without dignity.”
Last year, Gray was criticized for hiring Reuben Charles as his transition director despite the fact that Charles had a string of liens and judgments against him. Gray said it was unfair to compare the two incidents.
On Wednesday, Gray (D) had defended Brown’s hiring, which was reported Sunday in a Washington Post article about high salaries and political hires.
During the election, Brown, 40, drew attention at debates by urging voters to cast ballots for Gray and criticizing incumbent Adrian M. Fenty.
On Thursday, Gray said he stood behind his earlier comments that Brown was “qualified.”
“I said nice things about his resume. I think it speaks for itself,” he said.
Wayne Turnage, interim director of the Department of Health Care Finance, who spoke before the mayor during the news briefing, took the blame for the hiring. He said that Gray’s transition team recommended and vetted Brown but that he had the authority to hire or pass on him.
Turnage said that he decided Wednesday night to let Brown go but that there was no correlation between the City Paper article and his decision.
He said he met with Brown and then left for a budget meeting. About an hour later, he said, he received an e-mail that Brown had been escorted out of the office.
Brown, who denied a “confrontation,” said officers followed him to the garage of the D.C. government building on North Capitol Street, where he had parked his bike, and told him that they had received a complaint “that I was disruptive.”
He blamed his termination on the media attention, what he said was a threat by council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) to block Turnage’s nomination for permanent director of the health-care finance agency and “a potential political embarrassment for the mayor.”
Catania said it was “complete fantasy” to scuttle the nomination because of Brown. “This is becoming more and more bizarre by the day,” Catania said.
Catania said he told Turnage that he should be prepared to address “the issues that have come up with Mr. Brown’s hiring” at his confirmation hearing Friday. He added, “I think Mr. Brown has a number of issues, and I am not one of them.”