The disagreement over whether Sulaimon Brown will be compelled to testify before a D.C. Council Committee continued on Friday when the one-time mayoral candidate and former administration official disputed reports that he had been served with a subpoena.
On Thursday, the committee investigating Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s hiring practices sent out a statement saying it had served Brown with a subpoena compelling his testimony on May 13. But in an interview Friday morning, Brown said he has not been served and, even if is, he is unlikely to show up before the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment.
“I’m under no legal obligation to testify,” said Brown, who is at the center of the controversy over how some people landed jobs in the Gray administration. “I have not received a subpoena and I am not wanted and under no obligation to come down and talk.”
The discrepancy between Brown’s comments and those of Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), the chairwoman of the committee, stem from disagreement over whether the council has the authority to serve someone via the mail.
Cheh said the council made repeated attempts to serve Brown in recent weeks, but was unsuccessful in finding him. So Cheh said she acted on advice this week from V. David Zvenyach, the council general counsel, that council rules permit serving someone through the mail when all other options have been exhausted.
But Brown said Cheh, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University, and Zvenyach made a mistake because that provision in the council rules has expired.
“She basically duped the media and cited an old council rule that is outdated,” said Brown, who was fired from his $110,000 a year job in the Department of Health Care Finance in February following media reports about his past. “I know she can’t be a professor of law and cite bogus laws.”
Brown is the one ignorant of the law, Cheh said. When a new council period starts, Cheh said the council always “adopts the previous rules” so it’s still valid to serve someone through mail.
“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” Cheh said. “I didn’t know he was a lawyer.”
Brown is an auditor and accountant.
Regardless of whether the subpoena is valid, Brown appears unlikely to testify on May 13. In an interview, Brown called Cheh’s hearing a “witch-hunt” and accused her of trying to cover up for Gray.
If Brown doesn’t appear, Cheh said she will consult the full council on whether it wants to go court to find him in contempt. But Cheh said it remains unclear whether a majority of the council would vote to ask a judge to intervene.
“There may come a point where, because of his erratic behavior and not just with our committee but a whole variety of circumstances, people might just say, ‘Is this really worth it take up resources and spending money to pursue this?’” Cheh said.
On the other hand, Cheh said, “Principle might be important.”