A former campaign worker for Mayor Marion Barry received a $1,400 interest-free loan from the city to pay back rent on his upper 16th Street NW home and stave off eviction, Albert P. Russo, Director of the D.C. Department of Human Resources, said yesterday.
According to Russo, one of Barry's special assistants interceded in behalf of Marshall Brown, once Barry's Ward 1 political aide, after an initial decision denying the money to Brown. Brown received the loan on Feb. 1 from the DHR through a program designed to help families during crises.
Russo said yesterday that he received a call from Audrey Rowe, the mayor's special assistant for Youth Affairs, who told him she had a new employe -- brown -- who faced eviction because of non-payment of rent.
"It's not unusual for me to go calls for assistance from high-level government officials," Russo said. "I called the highest-ranking person in the department's payments and assistance administration and told him of Brown's situation as explained by Miss Rowe."
Russo said Malone Broome Jr., the deputy administrator of the department, told him Brown's request was unusual because of the ammount of assistance needed -- two months' back rent of $700 each.
"I told Broome that if Brown met the eligibility requirements, he could get the money but that because of the amount, I indicated that Brown would have to agree to a repayment of $466 a month starting March 15 even though normally we give outright grants," Russo said.
Russo said the requirements stipulate that the applicant be a District resident, be able to meet monthly expenses barring an emergency, that the applicant has a crisis "which if unresolved would lead to deprivation," and that the crisis must not be the result of "repeated monely mismanagement."
Russo said that 60 percent of the people who received these one-time grants last year were on public assistance.
To the best of his knowledge, Russo said, brown met the criteria when the application was filed and he agreed to repay the loan.
Brown told a reporter last night that he was in difficult financial circumstances when he applied for the loan.
"My wife has been unable to get a job and we've been living on $400 a month for the past six months because 50 percent of my check was garnished... for back child-support payments," he said.
Brown said he rents out two apartments in the three-story brick home, one at $425 a month and the other for $137, a total of $662. He said, however, that the rent charges do not include utiliies, which averaged an estimated $500 a month this past winter. He said that the gas bill was $221.
After the first of the year, Brown said, he owed four months rent, two of which he was able to pay without District funds. "We've been under economic strain for the past five years," Brown said. "It's not like we're making lots of money and living in some fancy home.
"This place is a dump with more than 20 housing code violations," he said. "I don't even own a car. I don't see what the big deal is -- I'm paying the money back. What should have happened, that my wife and daughter be put out on the street?"
Russo said that city officials, incuding Ivanhoe Donaldson, the mayor's general assistant, were aware that Brown's money crisis had been referred to DHR.
"A day or two after I referred Brown to Broome, I ran into Donaldson [in the District building] and I said, just for his information, that I had referred Brown to the Payments and Assistance Administration, and if he were to be found eligible, Brown would have to repay the loan," Russo said. "Donaldson told me he saw nothing wrong in that."
"I think Brown had a legitimate crisis, and that is what the program is for," Russo said. "We asked him to repay the grant because of the amount.