October 31, 2011 Leave a comment
Committee finds no direct evidence Sulaimon Brown was promised city job
By Nikita Stewart, Monday, October 31, 12:06 AM
A congressional committee has concluded that Sulaimon Brown appeared to receive money from people with ties to a campaign aide of Mayor Vincent C. Gray but that there is no direct evidence that he was promised a city job in return for disparaging then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in last year’s election.
An investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform did not find “independent facts to corroborate” Brown’s claim that “he was promised a job” but said there is “circumstantial evidence that may support Brown’s” claim of such a promise, according to its report of the former mayoral candidate’s claims. A copy of the report, which is scheduled to be released Monday, was obtained by The Washington Post.
The committee looked at money orders drawn under the names of people with ties to Gray campaign consultant Howard L. Brooks. Brooks declined to be interviewed by the congressional panel, which also did not interview those whose names appeared on the money orders. The committee did not use subpoena power.
The committee interviewed several Gray campaign and administration staffers as well as Brown, according to the report. It said it based its conclusions on the interviews and on documents provided by the mayor’s office and the D.C. Council, which concluded its own investigation this summer. The report also said that the evidence must be weighed against the credibility of Brown, whom it described as having a “poor grasp of the facts.”
“While there is some circumstantial evidence that may support Brown’s allegations, including cell phone records, internal city e-mails, and copies of text messages between Brown [and the mayor and campaign staff], overall the evidence is insufficient to support Brown’s allegations” that he was promised a job, the report said.
Although the committee did not find conclusive evidence of such a promise, the report does not conclude that Brown’s claim was untrue.
Gray has denied the campaign made payments to Brown or asked him to attack Fenty. The mayor has said that Brown was told that he would get a job interview, not that he was promised a job.
The congressional report cited a D.C. Council contention that Brown effectively committed perjury by violating the District’s false-statements law on a job application. Brown, the report said, signed the application under oath saying he was not “given, transferred, promised, or paid any consideration for or in expectation or in hope of receiving assistance in securing” a position with D.C. government.
The D.C. Council investigation recommended that Brown be prosecuted for what the council thought to be false statements in his job application.
Brown has told The Post that the Gray campaign promised him a job and that the mayor was aware of that promise. Brown claims the payments from Gray’s campaign were aimed at keeping Brown’s financially strapped mayoral campaign afloat as a way to battle Fenty.
The House committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), launched its investigation in March after The Post published a story in which Brown alleged that the Gray campaign gave him payments and promised him a job for his attacks on Fenty. His claims also prompted investigations by the D.C. Council, the city’s Office of Campaign Finance, the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office.
Overall, the House committee’s conclusion is similar to the findings of the D.C. Council probe, which released findings in August that faulted the Gray administration’s hiring practices. But the House report reveals more details from campaign chairwoman Lorraine A. Green, who acknowledged to congressional investigators that “it is possible” she and Brooks met with Brown at Union Station.
Green has denied all of Brown’s allegations. In an interview with The Post, Brooks denied making payments, and he declined to speak further without an attorney.
Brown has alleged that he and Green met at Union Station’s rotunda last summer, when she allegedly gave him the first of several campaign payments — an envelope he claims contained about $750. Brown alleges Brooks delivered other payments.
Green denied Brown’s allegations about what transpired at the Union Station meeting, saying that he was seeking financial help from Gray campaign donors. “I laughed at him,” Green told the investigators, according to the report. “We were running way behind Fenty, who had a multimillion-dollar war chest. The campaign was running on a shoestring . . . we weren’t about to help another candidate.”
She told the congressional committee that she gave Brown “white envelopes containing ‘campaign information’ but said the packages ‘were not for him specifically.’ ”
The report said that if Brown received contributions from Green or Brooks to help finance his campaign “without reporting those contributions, he likely violated D.C. campaign law.” In interviews with The Post and testimony before the D.C. Council, Brown said he used some of the money to pay for personal expenses because he was unemployed.
Harsh assessment of Brown
The report offers a harsh assessment of Brown, based on interviews with Green and Wayne Turnage, director of the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance, the city agency that briefly employed him this year.
The House committee interviewed Brown, Green, Turnage, D.C. Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby and Gerri Mason Hall, Gray’s former chief of staff — called “five key witnesses” in the report. Two other “key figures” — Brooks and Talib Karim, Turnage’s former chief of staff — declined to meet with the committee, according to the report.
According to the report, Brown called Turnage and other staff members at Health Care Finance after he was dismissed, demanding a severance package. Brown has told The Post that he was seeking severance because he thought he was wrongfully dismissed.
Shortly before Brown was hired, Green told the committee, she reported “threatening” text messages she said she received from Brown to security officials at Amtrak, where she was a senior official until April. Brown has told The Post that he did not view the messages as threatening.
D.C. police told the House committee that an Amtrak inspector contacted them about the text messages, according to the report. “A review of the text messages [by police] did not reveal any criminal threats but the messages did not appear to be fully coherent,” the report said.
Green also told the committee that at one point during the campaign, Stephanie Reich, Gray’s campaign chief of staff and personal aide, began receiving calls from Brown. According to Green, Reich, who answered the mayor’s campaign calls, said Brown called repeatedly. Brown has told The Post that he called to try to reach Gray through Reich.
Citing Brown’s cellphone records, the report said there were 45 calls between Brown’s phone and a campaign cellphone that Reich answered between July 13, 2010, and Sept. 13, 2010, of which 39 came from Brown’s phone. “In addition,” the report said, “the records show multiple calls on the same day, often within minutes of each other.”
According to the report: “Green said during the campaign she ‘had discussions with Howard Brooks about Brown,’ telling Brooks and other men in Gray’s entourage that she wanted them to ‘keep an eye on Brown’ during campaign events. Green explained, ‘The security detail was supposed to watch the crowd. I didn’t want them focusing on Brown, so I asked some men in the campaign to help out.’ ”
However, the committee says throughout the report that some of Green’s assertions could not be verified because of the lack of cooperation from Brooks.
Brown has said that when he first met Green and Brooks at Union Station, they were traveling in a dark-colored Volkswagen. He has told The Post that Brooks was driving and that Green said it was okay to speak in front of him. He also told The Post that after Green allegedly gave him the money, she told him additional payments would be handled by Brooks.
According to the report, Green acknowledged that she often traveled with Brooks in a vehicle that met Brown’s description. She “said ‘it is possible’ that Brown saw her in such a car with Brooks at Union Station.” Green acknowledged “it is possible” that Brown approached the car and spoke with her, but she said she had “no specific recollection” of such a meeting, according to the report.
The report, which includes photos of envelopes Brown said he received from the Gray campaign, notes that there is no video footage to corroborate the meeting took place.
The committee also delved into the circumstances surrounding Brown’s dismissal from the city’s Department of Health Care Finance. He was fired after media reports about his past legal troubles, including a restraining order in which Brown was accused of stalking a 13-year-old girl. Police found that the woman who filed for the restraining order and Brown had a “child in common” and that he was ordered to stay away from the child, according to the congressional report.
The committee’s findings shed light on the restraining order. Brown said he believed the Gray administration fabricated court records relating to the court order. The committee concluded that Brown’s allegation is false, according to the report. Brown has declined to speak about the restraining order, saying only that “it’s not what you think.”
Turnage told congressional investigators that Brown’s work performance also was poor. Turnage said Brown “ ‘didn’t know what an RFP (request for proposal) was’ and ‘had no knowledge of Excel’ . . . Turnage also said that Brown’s work product was replete with spelling and grammatical errors,” the report said.
Brown has said that he performed well at the agency.
Staff writer Ben Pershing contributed to this report.
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