When Rushern Baker named Eric Brown as acting director of the Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development, he thought he was turning the pages on one of the most embarrassing moments in county history. But as Brown goes before the County Council for confirmation to a full-time status, Brown’s checkered past could prove to be another black eye for the county.
On the day Baker named Brown to the post, he was effusive with his praised for the man with an impressive list of jobs on his resume. “It was a priority of my administration to find the right leader to improve the service, reputation, and management of this department,” Baker said in March. “We have found an incredible and experienced housing expert in Eric Brown.”
The DHCD came under scrutiny after the indictment of the county’s former executive Jack Johnson. In the indictment, it was revealed that Johnson and former DHCD head James Johnson were using their positions of influence to receive payments from various developers and businessmen throughout the county.
Unfortunately, the news of Brown’s past did nothing to erase the taint left by the previous administration. Soon after his appointment, it was revealed that Brown had been disciplined as the head of previous housing departments. In 1993, as the head of the housing authority in Meridian, Miss., Brown was suspended – years after being fired from a similar position in Birmingham, Ala.
Brown says the moves were politically motivated, but not everyone is taking his word for it. From concerned citizens to Prince George’s realtors, they say the county’s situation is too delicate to take a risk on Brown.
Ruth Wright, president of Prince George’s Real Estate Professionals for Change (PGREP4C), said the issue of Brown’s hiring goes beyond his checkered employment history and into the core of what plagues the county’s government.
“The issue was not that Mr. Brown has a questionable past, but, the county executive did not know about the past of Mr. Brown,” Wright said.
“This same system allowed (for DHCD head) James Johnson to get appointed by a 0-9 members abstaining to vote,” she continued. “This is a clear sign of a faulty system that shows no indications of being corrected by the county executive or county council.”
Wright along with Sandy Pruitt, head of People for Change of Prince George’s County, has asked the council not to approve Brown’s appointment as permanent chief of DHCD.
Despite this, Baker said he was pleased enough with Brown’s performance to nominate him for full-time status.
Baker said Brown had already exceeded expectations and will create a “noticeable positive change” for county employees within his department and county residents.
Brown, who touts his experience of turning around the troubled housing authority in Annapolis, is delighted about his current position and hopes he’s able to continue in a full-time capacity.
“I am excited and honored to serve the residents of Prince George’s County,” said Brown in a statement. “I look forward to being a part of the Baker Administration working to improve communities throughout the County.”
The council is expected to rule on Brown’s appointment next month.