Sulaimon Brown to testify in D.C. Council probe

(Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the date of Sulaimon Brown’s upcoming testimony.)

The former mayoral candidate who has accused Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) of striking a secret job deal is set to answer questions in public and under oath for the first time.

Sulaimon Brown ended his fight against a D.C. Council subpoena in Superior Court on Tuesday, after a council lawyer told Judge Judith N. Macaluso that a summons for his appearance in court was served on his fiancee Friday afternoon.

Brown agreed to testify at a June 6 hearing — which would be the fifth day of testimony in an ongoing probe of Gray’s hiring practices — with the caveat that he had “been instructed by federal investigators not to speak about certain issues.”

His allegations are under review by the U.S. attorney’s office in the District, as well as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Brown, who was hired earlier this year and later fired as a $110,000-a-year auditor in the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance, alleges that he was given a city job and cash payments in return for campaign attacks on former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). The Washington Post has not been able to independently verify any payments.

The council has sought Brown’s testimony since March, but it struggled to physically serve him with a subpoena, and Brown has otherwise refused to appear. The council filed a court petition seeking a court order to have Brown testify. But last week, Macaluso told council lawyers that a mailing to Brown was not enough to compel his appearance in court for a hearing on the petition.

But Brown responded to a court-mailed summons for Tuesday’s hearing.

Macaluso offered to schedule an additional hearing for Thursday — giving Brown, who represented himself, the opportunity to prepare arguments for his challenge to the subpoena’s legitimacy. He declined the extra time, and attacked Gray and Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), the council member leading the probe, for “trying to score some political points.”

“They’ve already come to some kind of conclusion, so I don’t know why they’re dragging me there in the first place,” Brown said of the council investigation.

But his claims about the council’s motives made little impression on Macaluso. “Mr. Brown,” she responded, “I’m going to direct you to a subpoena requiring you to testify.”

Brown later asked Macaluso to limit the time he would have to submit to questioning. “I have no interest in sitting there for 5, 6, 7, 8 hours,” Brown said. “I’m not going to do it.”

She refused to limit the testimony, though Brown and the council agreed to end questioning at 7 p.m., six hours after its scheduled start, should it continue that late. The council could then require him to testify again at a later date.

Macaluso said she was “not in a position to prejudge” how long the council would question him.

Brown snapped back, “I’m in a position to prejudge because I’m unemployed.” He said he needed the time to find a job.

Cheh said she was “very pleased” that Brown would finally testify. The council has spent “thousands” on the effort to serve subpoenas, she said, with an initial $2,000 effort supplemented with a “more aggressive effort.”

Cherita Whiting, a Gray supporter hired to a mid-level job in the parks department, is also likely to answer questions Monday. Her attorney, A. Scott Bolden, said he was “trying to iron out some details” with council staff, but expected Whiting to testify.

Brown said he would appear Monday without a lawyer.

Cheh said she doubted the questioning would take more than a few hours. That depends on how many of her council colleagues attend the hearing to ask questions, “and that I can’t predict,” she said. She added that she would not look fondly on Brown refusing to discuss certain matters based on the federal investigation.

“That’s not a basis not to testify,” Cheh said, adding that she’s heard “not a peep” from federal agents asking her to limit the probe.

Questioning of Gray confidante Lorraine Green last month brought a previous session to a halt after her lawyer said the questions could “intrude” on the federal probe.

Brown said it was “baffling” that the council would pursue questioning while the criminal probe was underway. “If it impedes their investigation, it’s not my fault,” he said.

After the hearing, Brown said that he agreed to testify because city residents “deserve some closure to the issue.” He told reporters he would bring evidence to support his claims. He would not discuss specifics — except one: “No one can contend that I did not receive the job,” he said.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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