By Nikita Stewart and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 24, 2011; 7:41 PM
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 about his salary and a possible criminal past.
Brown, a minor mayoral candidate in the 2010 Democratic primary, stunned reporters when he quietly showed up uninvited for a news briefing where the mayor was addressing the termination and brush with Protective Services.
It was a bizarre continuation of a media firestorm that has swept up the mayor this week. He has fielded criticism about high salaries paid to top aides, nepotism, cronyism and controversy surrounding SUVs requested by D.C. Council Chairman and political ally Kwame R. Brown (D). It also raised questions about the vetting process used by Gray's transition team.
A Washington City Paper article listed a 1991 gun charge that later was dropped and a 2007 restraining order. Officials in the 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.
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.
Brown called Gray "a great mayor" but he said he was disappointed in his lack of support this week. "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 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 first 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 harshly 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 Gray's transition team recommended and vetted Brown, but he said he had the authority to hire or pass on Brown.
Turnage said he was not "at liberty" to discuss why Brown was fired or the details of his resume. He 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 for about 30 minutes Thursday morning 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. Turnage said it was disappointing because they had a "very civil conversation" earlier. He said he had heard conflicting reports about what had precipitated security involvement.
Brown, who denied a "confrontation," said the officers followed him to the garage of the office 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 and "a potential political embarrassment for the mayor."
Catania said it is "complete fantasy" to scuttle the nomination because of Brown. "This is becoming more and more bizarre by the day," Catania said. "It is really looking like a circus."
Catania said he told Turnage 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."