A Close Read of Kwame Brown’s SUV Lease Deal
When LL first broke the news in January that the city is paying nearly $2,000 a month for Council Chairman Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown's Lincoln Navigator, his office said Brown was "appalled" at the high cost and was looking into whether the District could get out of the contract in an affordable way.
Now that the Washington Post has a Sunday front-pager expanding on the story—with some unflattering e-mails showing Brown has put the city on the hook for an extra Navigator because he didn't like the gray interior he was offered at first—Brown appears to be really looking into getting out of the lease.
"He is checking into returning it," says Brown's spokeswoman Traci Hughes, when LL followed up on a tweet from WUSA9's Bruce Johnson saying Brown was going to return the SUV. Hughes says Brown isn't going to release a statement until he has all the information regarding the cost of terminating the lease.
While he's doing that, let's do some digging ourselves, shall we?
LL has a copy of the original contract for most of the D.C. fleet of leased cars, as well as the modification that includes Brown's SUV. (LL does not have the copy of the lease for the first Navigator Brown rejected because its seats weren't black, though—which the city is still leasing, according to the Post.) There's nothing mentioned in the original contract about terminating a lease early, so Brown might be out of luck on that end. There is, however, a section marked "Vehicle Redeployment," which says:
In the event of an early vehicle return to [Fleet Management Administration] because of program changes or budgetary constraints, FMA shall have the option to redeploy the lease vehicle to another DC user-agency for the duration of the remaining lease term, provided remaining lease term is more than two months. All terms, conditions, and the monthly lease rate associated with the lease of a vehicle shall remain unchanged.
This is an option Brown should consider. Redeploying the SUV wouldn't help save the city any money, but it might help Brown save some face by no longer being seen riding around in a symbol of hypocrisy and government waste. (Or rather, riding around in one symbol of hypocrisy and government waste, while a second symbol of hypocrisy and government waste goes unused because Brown didn't like its color scheme.) LL suggests the city redeploy the fancy Navigator to the police department's K-9 unit, so the city's cutest cops can kick back, gnaw on a rawhide, and watch Lassie DVDs on the Navigator's rear entertainment system when they aren't hitting the streets. The city should also build little ramps so the police dogs can stick their heads out of the power moonroof for some fresh air.
Brown could also try and sell the lease on the open market. There's a company, Swapalease, that lets you sell your lease to an interested buyer for a short-term lease. LL checked, and it just so happens that there is currently no one trying to unload a $2,0000-a-month Lincoln Navigator on the company's website. No competition!
Photo by Darrow Montgomery