Mayor Vincent Gray feels vindicated by House report on Sulaimon Brown’s claims
By Nikita Stewart,
Mayor Vincent C. Gray feels vindicated by a new congressional report on allegations by former candidate Sulaimon Brown that Gray’s campaign paid him and promised a city job to disparage then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in last year’s elections, according to the mayor’s staff.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that Brown appeared to receive money-order contributions from people with ties to a Gray campaign consultant and found circumstantial evidence that Brown was promised a job. But the panel concluded that there was no direct evidence of the alleged job pledge or that Gray knew of any payments.
Brown’s attorney, James Rudasill Jr., cautioned against drawing conclusions based on the 52-page report released Monday by the committee, which did not use its subpoena power.
The panel “doesn’t have the final word on all of this,” he said. “It’s the U.S. attorney’s office. They are doing a more in-depth review.”
The U.S. attorney’s office is investigating Brown’s claims, and federal prosecutors have presented witnesses to a grand jury, according to sources with knowledge of the probe who cannot speak publicly because grand jury proceedings are secret. Federal investigators are continuing interviews with campaign volunteers and staff members this week, the sources said.
Gray, whose administration has been saddled with several probes into Brown’s allegations and into overall personnel practices involving poor vetting of employees, has said he wants prosecutors to end the investigation as soon as possible. But he and his staff were buoyed by the latest report, said an aide who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
“This is the second report in a row that says if there was any wrongdoing that the mayor didn’t know about it,” the aide said, referring to the D.C. Council’s probe.
Gray did not return calls seeking comment, but in an interview Monday with Fox 5 reporter Matt Ackland, he said the report “makes us feel vindicated.”
Later in the day, that elation was somewhat dampened when Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the committee’s chairman, introduced a bill that would require criminal background checks of potential employees hired into the city’s “excepted service” positions.
Brown, hired as a special assistant at a salary of $110,000 before he was dismissed in February, and dozens of other employees were excepted service workers in the Gray administration, or political hires. The administration has come under fire for its poor vetting of Brown, who had a record of run-ins with the law, and other employees with past convictions.
After the vetting controversy, Gray announced that his administration would look more closely at new hires. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who led a council committee’s probe into Brown’s allegations and the administration’s personnel practices, introduced legislation that would require fuller background checks and salary caps.
Cheh said Monday that she would introduce an emergency resolution opposing Issa’s bill at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said Monday that she would fight Issa’s measure: “The bill represents a significant escalation of Republicans’ relentless attacks this Congress on the District’s right to self-government.”
In a statement, Gray called Issa’s bill “ill-advised and unnecessary.”
“The bill represents a step backward and is another example of Congress needlessly imposing its will on the District,” he said.
The conclusion reached by the congressional committee was similar to that of the D.C. Council committee, which released its findings in August. Both investigations found that Brown appeared to receive money-order contributions from people linked to Howard Brooks, a Gray campaign consultant and a close friend of Gray’s campaign and transition team chairman, Lorraine A. Green.
The Gray administration hired Brown, an unemployed auditor, as a special assistant in the Department of Health Care Finance. He was dismissed several weeks later and disclosed his allegations to The Washington Post. He said that Green and Brooks gave him payments — generally in white envelopes — to keep his campaign afloat and that Gray and Green promised him a job for his attacks on Fenty. He said Gray was aware of the payments.
Green, Gray and Brooks have denied the allegations.
In her interview with congressional investigators, Green said she gave Brown “white envelopes” that contained “campaign information” but not specific to him, according to the congressional report. She also acknowledged that “it is possible” that she and Brooks saw Brown at Union Station although she did not recall a meeting.
Brown has said he was introduced to Brooks by Green during a meeting outside Union Station.
Glenn F. Ivey, Brooks’ attorney, declined to comment.
In an e-mail, Green’s attorney, Thomas C. Green, called the disclosures in the congressional report “much ado about nothing.”