Mayor Vincent C. Gray admits mistakes have been made in vetting applicants… (Marvin Joseph/WASHINGTON…)
District Mayor Vincent C. Gray on Sunday acknowledged “missteps” and said he wants the city attorney general and the D.C. Council to investigate allegations that aides to his campaign paid mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown last summer to continue his attacks on then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in exchange for a city job.
Gray (D) also accepted the resignation of Talib Karim, the chief of staff of the Department of Health Care Finance, where Brown worked as a $110,000-a-year special assistant until he was dismissed.
“I acknowledge we have made missteps,” the mayor said, referring to the vetting process for administration jobs. “We have taken steps to adress those missteps.”
Gray said he is skeptical of Brown’s assertion that he was paid by Lorraine Green, who was the mayor’s campaign chairwoman and is one of his closest friends and advisers, and campaign consultant Howard Brooks. Green and Brooks have denied the allegations, and The Washington Post could not independently verify any payments.
“If somebody did that, then they ought to be subject to whatever justice is required,” Gray said of the allegations. “I would never condone anything like that, period, point blank.”
The mayor’s mea culpa came on the day The Post published an article about Brown’s allegations. Brown provided cellphone records that indicated dozens of calls between Brown and Gray and the two campaign staffers dating to late June and text messages in which Brown discusses promises he felt were made about a job.
Brown is standing his ground. He said in an interview Sunday that he was paid by Green and Brooks and had been promised a position with the Gray administration for his efforts against Fenty. Brown said he received money between June 24 and the Sept. 14 Democratic primary and used it to pay personal expenses and help fund his campaign.
“I’m willing to take the heat for what I did wrong,” Brown said.
Several D.C. Council members welcomed Gray’s call for an investigation, but some said they preferred for the D.C. inspector general or an outside investigator look into the allegations rather than the city’s new attorney general, Irvin B. Nathan, who was appointed by Gray and is awaiting council confirmation.
“I commend the mayor for wanting it investigated, but I also want the independence so we get that quality,” council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) said. “We have to get to the bottom of this, obviously.”
In a statement issued last night, council Chairman Kwame R. Brown said he planned to refer the matter to the inspector general for an “independent review.”
Gray advisers dubious
Several top advisers to the Gray campaign said Sunday that they doubt Sulaimon Brown’s allegations are true.
Gray campaign manager Adam Rubinson and senior strategists Mo Elleithee and Lloyd Jordan said that Brown was a nuisance and that his antics on the campaign trail were not helpful. They added that Brown’s name rarely came up in discussions because he was not viewed as a credible candidate in the race.
“If anything happened, and I don’t believe it happened, it was not part of the campaign,” Rubinson said. “I would be shocked to find out anything did happen.”
Elleithee described Brown as “this annoying guy who wouldn’t go away” and delivered over-the-top attacks on Fenty that helped generate sympathy for the former mayor.
“This notion people were encouraging him to keep doing what he was doing and paying him to keep doing what he was doing, I would be very surprised, because everyone thought what he was doing was harmful to us,” Elleithee said.
But council members David A. Catania (I-At Large) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said the matter should be investigated to restore public trust.
Catania also said he didn’t think Nathan was sufficiently independent to conduct a credible probe. “We have an institutional crisis,” he said.
If Brown’s allegations are true, it’s unclear whether city or federal law would apply.
District law at one time prohibited “offering or receiving money, property or valuable consideration to procure office,” but that provision was repealed in 1982 as part of a sweeping rewrite of the city’s criminal code.
Some federal corruption laws, including the criminal bribery statute, specifically apply to District government. But while there is a federal law making it illegal to “offer to procure appointive public office,” that statute does not appear to extend to the District government.
“My own recollection is that I’m not aware of anything in the District law that mirrors that,” said Evans, who added that he would direct his staff to research the matter.