Sulaimon Brown’s allegations should be taken seriously

June 7, 2011

THE SERIOUSNESS of Sulaimon Brown’s allegations should not be lost in the circus-like optics of his appearance before a D.C. Council committee probing the hiring practices of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s administration. Mr. Brown, for all his bizarre affectations, appeared without an attorney and testified under oath. He has produced documents that support his version of an unseemly — and possibly illegal — quid pro quo. Though it has yet to be determined whether Mr. Brown is telling the truth, his version of events has also not been undermined.

Mr. Brown, a former mayoral candidate, testified for four hours Monday about claims that Mr. Gray and his campaign aides gave him money and a lucrative government job in exchange for attacks on then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in last year’s Democratic primary. Appearing before a council committee probing the personnel practices of Mr. Gray’s administration, Mr. Brown — refusing to shed the dark sunglasses that lent a surreal air to the hearing — was combative, declining to answer some questions and criticizing individual council members. “Mr. Brown, your delusions are limitless,” council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) said. “You’re out of your goddamn mind,” said council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8).

Ironically, those observations tend to lend credibility to Mr. Brown’s allegations. He was, after all, given a $110,000-a-year job in a critical D.C. agency by city officials who jumped through hoops to make it happen. If he is so nutty, what other reason could account for his hiring other than a political deal? He was fired soon after news of his hiring was publicized. Mr. Gray has steadfastly denied promising Mr. Brown a job, saying he only offered the pledge of an interview; he has said he had no knowledge of cash payments.

Mr. Brown has produced text messages, cellphone records and, most recently, money orders that provide some support for his claim. Particularly significant was a recent report by The Post’s Nikita Stewart showing a connection between payments to Mr. Brown’s campaign and Gray campaign aide Howard Brooks. Mr. Brooks, alleged by Mr. Brown to be the one charged with giving him the cash payoffs, has refused to cooperate with the council’s investigation, claiming Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination

Mr. Brown may be eccentric, but he’s been specific about dates, times and places. Witness his testimony about meeting with Mr. Gray the night of the Ward 4 forum at a restaurant where others — including Mr. Barry and council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) — were present; he even claims to remember who picked up the check. Since Mr. Brown’s allegations first surfaced in February, they have been subject to investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office. At least until that probe is completed, Mr. Brown’s claims should be taken seriously.

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