Leroy Washington, a leading Democratic Party activist in the District in the 1960s and 1970s, has resigned his job as a high-ranking official with the city of Jacksonville, Fla., after questions were raised about his hiring a D.C. man who was under indictment for attempted murder in Prince George's County.
Washington, 46, who served for five years as executive director of D.C.'s Commission on the Arts, resigned as head of Jacksonville's Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) program on May 31 after city officials there concluded he had lied when he told them he didn't know there were criminal charges then pending against the man he hired, Terry Tyrone Brown, city officials said.
Washington hired Brown, 29, as a computer analyst for Jacksonville's CETA program in August 1982, six months after Brown had been indicted in Prince George's County for attempted murder and conspiracy to murder in what authorities said was a murder-for-hire plot. Brown was convicted May 7 of those charges and several firearms charges and is scheduled to be sentenced July 28.
In an interview, Washington declined comment about Jacksonville officials' allegations that he knew about the criminal charges.
Washington has not been implicated in the shootings. He and Brown are old friends who worked as executives at a company that managed Washington-area discotheques, Washington said in an interview.
Washington resigned under pressure from the administration of Mayor Jake Godbold after officials concluded Washington made an error in judgment in hiring Brown and then lied to city officials when he told them he didn't know Brown was facing criminal charges, Jacksonville officials said.
"We feel he made a significant error in judgment," said Don McClure, the mayor's chief administrative aide. "And his story would not hold . . . . This caused our administration a great deal of embarrassment."
Washington resigned after officials there confronted him with evidence that "some statements he'd made were found not to be accurate," namely that he had not known about criminal charges against Brown, said Henry Stout, Jacksonville's director of intergovernmental affairs and an aide to Godbold.
Washington denied that Jacksonville officials ever confronted him with allegations that he witheld information. He said he resigned because the Florida press, in pursuing the story of Brown's hiring, had harassed his family and because the story was giving the CETA program bad publicity.
"I cannot deny he was a friend of mine," Washington said of Brown. "You have friends who get in trouble."
Washington was a respected political operative and community activist in Washington for years. He served as president of the D.C. Young Democrats and was a ranking official of the Washington-area YMCA in the 1960s. He was executive director of the D.C. Arts Commission from 1971 to 1976.
A political ally of ex-Mayor Walter Washington, he helped run Washington's mayoral campaign in 1974. Two years later, he ran unsuccessfully for a Ward 2 seat on the D.C. City Council and helped coordinate the Bicentennial in Washington. In 1980, he held several jobs in the Carter-Mondale election campaign.
In May 1982, Washington became Jacksonville's $29,000-a-year chief of training and development, heading the CETA program, which trains disadvantaged workers and young people and finds jobs for them. Two months later, he hired Brown, who had been released on bond pending trial in Prince George's.
Prosecutors said Brown, a former nurse's assistant for the criminally insane at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, agreed to kill Phillip Andrews, a Greenbelt insurance salesman, in return for $2,000 from the victim's wife.
Andrews' wife, Leslie Andrews, was sentenced to two concurrent life terms, but all but eight years of the sentence was suspended, following conviction for attempted murder and conspiracy to murder. Phillip Andrews was shot once through the shoulder on Jan. 20, 1982, in front of a Southwest Washington apartment building and was fired on again on Jan. 28, the day after he was released from the hospital, outside his apartment in Greenbelt. He was not hit. Brown was charged only in the second shooting, but the prosecutor presented evidence concerning both shootings at Brown's trial. Brown denied he ever shot at Andrews. Brown told police that Leslie Andrews, a friend of his, had complained that her husband was abusing her and that she needed his help in getting her husband committed.
Washington had been friends with Brown for years.
Jacksonville officials say they first learned of Brown's then-pending indictment last March when they received an anonymous letter outlining the case. City officials asked Washington about the matter, McClure said. Washington acknowledged he was Brown's friend but said he did not know about any criminal charges against him.
After an investigation, Jacksonville officials discovered that in May 1982 Washington had testified as a character witness for Brown at a Prince George's court hearing related to the case, McClure said.
Aside from the controversy surrounding Brown's hiring, Jacksonville officials were satisfied with Washington's performance in running the CETA office. "He did a good job over there," Stout said. "His knowledge of CETA went way back into the '60s. We had no problem with him."
Brown was fired from his Jacksonville job in April, when he was standing trial in Upper Marlboro and ran out of vacation time, city officials said. "From his superior's reports, he did an excellent job," Stout said.