D.C. mayoral candidate Michael A. Brown has some financial loose ends to tie up from his political exploratory committee, says one of his veteran campaign organizers. Joe Ruffin, former political director for Brown's committee, said Brown owes him $23,000.

Brown, son of the late Ronald H. Brown, a former U.S. commerce secretary, said Ruffin is wrong. "The exploratory committee has no debt at all," Brown said. "Joe Ruffin doesn't know what he's talking about."

Ruffin said he was paid a total of $15,000 for work he did over eight months. "I charge from $8,000 to $15,000 a month," Ruffin said. "People have paid me that."

Brown has said that his exploratory committee raised $151,345, including $76,400 after March 1. But in e-mails shared with The Washington Post, Ruffin and Andre Johnson, Brown's media consultant, complained last month that Brown owed them money.

Johnson confirmed that over the weekend Brown paid him the $2,000 he was owed for work performed for the exploratory committee. Johnson, a high school classmate of Brown's, said he has resigned from Brown's mayoral campaign.

Ruffin's loyalty does not go back that far. He said he has worked on campaigns for 17 years both locally and in Bermuda, New York, California, Oregon and New Jersey. In all, Ruffin said, he's run about 24 national races, three international races and three local campaigns.

"I'm a guy who if I work, I want to get paid," Ruffin said. "I don't expect to be treated like a boy in a man's game."

When Brown kicked off his mayoral campaign in September, Craig Kirby, Kemry Hughes and Ruffin, some of the first advisers to sign on with the campaign, did not attend the announcement.

Kirby, a Brown confidant, said he's frequently asked about the candidate's campaign coffers. "As I've gone about the city, I've been asked if the campaign is on solid footing. I don't know," Kirby said.

But Kirby said Ruffin mentioned to him before the campaign kickoff that Brown wasn't paying him.

Cropp Corrals Support

It looks like mayoral candidate Linda W. Cropp is sick of comparisons that paint one of her opponents, Adrian M. Fenty, as the bold voice of youth and her, Cropp, as representing the dying gasp of the old fogies.

At her birthday party fundraiser at Georgia Brown's restaurant last week, Cropp drew everyone's attention to "all the young people in this room that represent the hope, the promise and the future of Washington, D.C."

"Where are some of my young posse?" Cropp, 58, bellowed at one point, prompting a girl of about 12 or 13 to waggle an enthusiastic hand in the air.

Since officially jumping into the Democratic race for mayor in September, Cropp said, she and her "young posse" have "out-campaigned" Fenty, the Ward 4 council member, and three other candidates: Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (Ward 5), former telecommunications executive Marie C. Johns and lobbyist Michael A. Brown.

Cropp and her supporters have posted more than 1,000 red-and-white Cropp signs in yards all over the city, she said -- in some cases supplanting Fenty's green signs. "You're going to see red taking over," she crowed.

The D.C. council chairman has clearly corralled many of the city's biggest movers and shakers. Her standing-room-only event at Georgia Brown's featured much of D.C.'s political gentry, including veteran city official Joseph Yeldell; Ward 7 activist Kemry Hughes; local National Urban League president Maudeen R. Cooper; lobbyist Kerry Pearson; Georgia Brown's owner Paul Cohn (who normally remains neutral in local races); and BET founder Bob Johnson, a key contributor to Brown's exploratory committee. At Cropp's party, Johnson said he is supporting her for mayor.

Cropp's party also drew an array of sitting officials. Council members Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) and Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) were there, as was Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and his mother, Virginia.

But it's unlikely that those appearances amounted to official endorsements. Williams left the party after just a few minutes, without a Cropp sticker on his lapel.

"It's her birthday," the mayor said.

'Bummer' for Mayor

Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said he didn't have much fun at Cropp's party, which was held days after the mayor announced he would not seek reelection. Williams called the event "a real bummer."

"I felt like Batman with his Batcar revoked," he said.

Asked if he was reconsidering his decision, Williams said no. Still, he said, it was tough to walk into a room where everybody was wearing somebody else's sticker.

"You think, 'Everybody does hate me,' " Williams said. "But then I realized, I really am just irrelevant here."

Substitute Secretary

Who could replace the irreplaceable Phyllis Jones?

No one. But Ira Stohlman can do her job as secretary to the D.C. Council until Jones returns.

Jones is on leave to serve as Cropp's campaign manager. Stohlman, 55, worked for the Metropolitan Police Department's disability compensation program for the past six years. He is no stranger to the complicated rules and large egos of the council. He served as assistant secretary 15 years ago.

"Be nice to him,'' Cropp ordered.

Staff writer Eric M. Weiss contributed to this report.