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'Fully loaded' SUV puts D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown on the spot

A Lincoln Navigator believed to have been leased for D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown. The request was for a "fully loaded" Navigator with an all-black interior. A Navigator with a gray interior was rejected, but the SUV that Brown wound up with has tan seats.
A Lincoln Navigator believed to have been leased for D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown. The request was for a "fully loaded" Navigator with an all-black interior. A Navigator with a gray interior was rejected, but the SUV that Brown wound up with has tan seats. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Howland and Brown met that evening. Brown said Howland assured him that there would be no additional cost for replacing the SUV. Howland said in an interview that price had generally not been discussed with Brown or his staff throughout the process of procuring the SUVs. But he said he did not recall details of that particular conversation.

Meanwhile, a DPW administrator worked to find a Navigator L that met Brown's specifications and that could be delivered on time. A Lincoln dealer in Mississippi found one in Coldwater, Mich. - at $1,963 a month, about $200 more a month than the first vehicle.

The next morning, Smith e-mailed Howland, with copies sent to Lew and City Administrator Neil O. Albert: "I understand that we will have the vehicle by Wednesday" - six days later. "This is great news! Thanks again for your attention and personal involvement in getting this resolved immediately." Howland explained in another e-mail later in the day that someone would drive the SUV from Michigan to the District.

Two-tone interior

The SUV arrived late on Dec. 29. But there was a problem: The Navigator had a two-tone interior that was "charcoal black" with tan seats. This sent DPW officials into a panic.

About 9:30 a.m., Howland called Albert and Lew to tell them the SUV had tan seats. Neither picked up the phone. "I am going to call Kwame and see what he wants to do," Howland wrote in an e-mail.

Brown decided to take the SUV, tan seats and all.

At 5:04 p.m., Howland e-mailed Albert and Lew: "Kwame's car was delivered to him about 15 minutes ago. Happy New Year, Bill."


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