During the most anticipated D.C. Council hearing on executive hiring practices so far, former mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown—who sported dark sunglasses he refused to remove —claimed that Mayor Vincent Gray witnessed and ordered staff members to illegally pay him to help his campaign.
“The mayor is a crook,” Brown said in his opening remarks.
After weeks of subpoenas by Chairwoman Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who is overseeing the investigation into hiring irregularities, Brown testified in a chaotic, feisty four-hour hearing, which was court-ordered by a District judge last week.
The accountant said he was handed payments and promised an $110,000-salary job at the Department of Healthcare Finance—from which he was later fired—in exchange for his commitment to attack former Mayor Adrian Fenty and continue to repeat campaign slogans, specifically, “Go Brown, Go Gray. Go any color but Fenty.”
“They wanted me to continue to say it,” Brown said. “It kind of bloomed from there.”
He also said at debates, the mayor would give him cues of when to respond.
“Sometimes he would write notes on his pad,” he said.
To aid his claims, Brown provided copies of money orders and receipts, which he called Exhibits 1 through 3, which, purportedly, were given to him by Howard L. Brooks, Gray’s campaign consultant, and campaign chair Lorraine Green at different locations, including Union Station in June 2010.
Green denied those allegations in an earlier hearing, and Brooks, along with his son Peyton M. Brooks, invoked his Fifth Amendment right to silence.
Brown said he handed over the envelope to the FBI, without the original cash, which he initially said he spent on expenses as his campaign’s coffers were empty. But later he said, “I don’t recall,” when Cheh repeatedly asked him what he did with the money.
Brown said he received a payoff on Aug. 4 during a Gray fundraiser at the Eatonville restaurant, after a Ward 4 debate.
“I think Howard has something for you,” Brown said Gray told him. There, Brown said, he was given money orders—one for $500 and another for $150—along with an unknown amount of cash.
He said Councilmembers Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) attended the event—which they confirmed, adding however, that they did not witness an exchange of money.
Some spectators in the audience, such as D.C. resident Frederick Butler, supported Brown with claps and outbursts targeted at members of the council.
“I know he’s telling the truth,” Butler said as he sat behind Brown with a Fenty campaign hat on—although he said he never worked for the former mayor’s campaign.
“You can’t tell me this came out of thin air. Enough evidence is there.”
Doxie McCoy, spokeswoman for Gray, told the AFRO that the mayor will wait until a report is released by other investigators including the FBI, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“The investigations are continuing and the mayor will await their completion before commenting any further,” McCoy said. Cheh said she will not subpoena the mayor to testify before the council.
Another subpoena has been issued to obtain records Brown brought to the hearing—as he did not provide enough copies for council members.