He promised to bring down Mayor Vincent Gray’s administration after his firing early last year. But Sulaimon Brown’s revenge may extend way beyond what he anticipated.

The former minor mayoral candidate dominated the news in 2011 when he accused Gray’s campaign of illegally paying him to heckle rival, then-Mayor Adrian Fenty during the 2010 election. He also said Gray promised him a job for his support during the mayoral race.

“The mayor is a crook,” Brown charged during a D.C. Council hearing in June 2011.
Brown’s pay-for-play allegations prompted a widespread witch hunt, including separate investigations by Congress, the state’s attorney, the city’s Office of Campaign Finance, the D.C. Council and the FBI. And now the tentacles of Brown’s retribution continue to spread with the latest federal campaign finance probe, which is centered on Washington, D.C. businessman and major political donor Jeffrey E. Thompson.

Though referenced only obliquely, Brown’s shadow has been felt in the latest corruption investigation, which has swept up Gray and several District lawmakers in its net.

The mayor, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown, and Council members Jack Evans, Phil Mendelson and Yvette Alexander were served grand jury subpoenas, in which Thompson featured prominently, after federal agents raided the business mogul’s home and offices, and those of public relations specialist Jeanne Clarke Harris earlier this month.

“It’s unclear what’s going on,” Chairman Brown said to the {Washington Post.} “There is a process that is playing itself out, and, to be honest, it’s just a lot of speculation until someone comes out and says what’s going on.”

But, according to news reports, the heart of the investigation seems to be the funding of the 2010 mayoral and council campaigns.

Thompson, whose $322 million a year company, Chartered Health Plan, is the city’s major Medicaid contractor, has given over $200,000 to federal and local election campaigns, according to a {Washington Post} review of public records.

The latest investigation further spreads the smear on Gray’s administration that appeared early on in his tenure, when a Feb. 19, 2011 {Post} article accused the mayor’s office of improper hiring and executive compensation practices. Among those employees mentioned in the report was Sulaimon Brown, who was hired for a $110,000-salary job despite evidence of a checkered past, including several charges of misdemeanor simple assaults, second-degree theft, unlawful entry, assault with a deadly weapon and ammunition violations, for which he was not convicted, and alleged stalking of a 13-year-old girl.

When Brown was fired Feb. 24, 2011 in the wake of the discoveries, he seemed determined neither to leave quietly nor alone. He quickly struck back with his allegations—first at a Gray press conference held at the Wilson Building the next day and later in the media. He alleged that someone in Gray’s camp had “set him up” by planting the court records. Then he also accused Gray of promising him his cushy job and giving him cash infusions for his ailing campaign if he attacked Fenty on the campaign trail. When Brown later appeared before a D.C. Council hearing on the matter—his omnipresent dark glasses a testament to his disdain for the proceedings—he produced copies of money orders and receipts that he said supported his claims that there had been exchanges of cash, texts and phone calls between him and Gray’s campaign staff.

Brown also shared his allegations with the FBI and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

In August, the D.C. Council committee that held the hearings on the matter concluded that there was indeed strong evidence that Howard Brooks, a member of Gray’s campaign, gave Brown $1,160 and promised him a job. Gray, himself, was cleared of wrongdoing. That finding, along with several others in the corruption probe, resulted in legislation to enhance the executive branch’s employee screening process; to curb severance pay, relocation and travel expenses; to offer full public disclosure of job candidates and clear job requirements and to limit the number of excepted service positions—jobs that are exempted from competitive hiring requirements.

The House committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), in its report concluded that, “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 , overall the evidence is insufficient to support Brown’s allegations,” especially since Brown had demonstrated a “poor grasp of the facts.”

Still, while Brown may not have achieved his immediate goal—Mayor Gray’s immediate political demise—his accusations have certainly diminished Gray’s legacy. And, who knows, given the current federal investigations, Brown may see his dream fulfilled after all.

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO