Another controversy befell Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray recently when one of his top aides was abruptly terminated just one day after he was publicly praised for his performance.
The latest turmoil follows numerous stories of alleged fiscal mismanagement, unjustified high salaries for top aides, and cronyism by the mayor and council chair.
Sulaimon Brown, 40, was a special assistant to the mayor in the Department of Health Finances, and claimed he was relieved of his duties due to political pressures by Councilman David Catania (Ind.-At Large) and was the subject of a smear campaign.
“You’re not a good fit,” Brown said he was told by Wayne Turnage, director of the department.
“Wayne Turnage told me that Catania told him if he didn’t let me go he would not confirm him as director for the agency,” said Brown.
But Turnage, at his confirmation hearing on Feb. 25, denied that he made the remark. Catania’s office also claimed there was no validity to the allegation.
Ben Young, public information officer for Catania, said the councilman had a conversation with the director on Feb. 23, one day prior to Brown’s dismissal and briefly mentioned Brown’s upcoming appointment. However, Young said the councilman did not instruct the director to terminate Brown.
The controversy may stem from the results of Brown’s background check, which revealed a previously unknown criminal past. According to records obtained from the D.C. Superior Court, Brown had been charged with several misdemeanor simple assaults, second degree theft, unlawful entry, assault with a deadly weapon and ammunition violations dating back to 1991, though he was not convicted for any of the offenses.
But Brown was also the subject of a civil protection order filed in February 2007 by a mother to protect her 13-year old daughter from Brown’s alleged stalking. The order also claimed that Brown claimed to be a police officer and on numerous occasions inappropriately gave money to the teenager as well as spent time alone with her.
Brown emphatically denied the allegations of the civil protection order and claimed he was not living in the district at the time of the allegations.
“The first I ever heard of this was yesterday,” Brown claimed. “Someone is trying to set me up. Is there a court seal on the document? When all this is over, I will be vindicated.”
In the 2010 mayoral race, Brown became a major ally of Gray toward the middle of the campaign.
Brown questioned why the mayor has turned his back on him so quickly without properly investigating the matter. Doxie McCoy, spokeswoman for Gray, said Turnage was responsible for the decisions related to Brown’s employment.
Brown’s resume reflected his competency for his position, according to Gray’s transition office.
“The mayor is disappointed with this outcome. Nonetheless, he stands by Mr. Turnage’s authority. Mayor Gray wishes Mr. Brown well,” McCoy wrote in a Feb. 25 statement to the AFRO.
“Something seems awfully strange,” said longtime advisory neighborhood commissioner Anthony Muhammad. “One day Mayor Gray is praising Sulaimon for his excellent work ethics. The next day it seems Gray allows the attacks to happen without questioning or investigating anything.”
The possibility that the Gray administration had not thoroughly screened high-level coterminous appointees has also raised questions about the vetting process used for appointees.
“It’s disappointing that in an early mayoral administration there would be so many cases of poor staffing decisions,” said Lorenzo Morris, professor of political science at Howard University.
Brown is currently on paid administrative leave. He is scheduled to be terminated effective on March 11.