Loose Lips

Fully Loaded It? Fully Refund It!

Perhaps you've heard: D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown has a sweet ride—and you're paying for it.

Earlier this year, LL reported that Brown and Mayor Vince Gray, having apparently decided that change begins in the motor pool, had both secured new official vehicles for themselves. The lease for Gray's Lincoln Navigator would cost taxpayers $1,941 a month. Brown, apparently unwilling to settle for the lowly Chevy Tahoe that had carried Gray when he was council chairman, secured a Navigator for $1,963 per month. The damage is significantly more than many of the two men's constituents pay for rent. More to the point, it was hundreds of dollars more than the highest price LL was able to find when he browsed available lease offers online.

At the time, a Brown spokeswoman duly reported that her boss—who will soon be meting out deep budget cuts to the cash-strapped city government—was "appalled" when he learned of the price.

That surprised pose was undercut yesterday when The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis published months' worth of Navigatorgate correspondence obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. It turned out Brown's minions had been pressuring city officials to bring them a car that was "fully loaded" with a moon roof and rear entertainment system, along with a specific black-on-black color scheme. The same city that will soon be cutting back on kids' programs and other good causes, it turned out, had secured a second ride after the luxury-loving council chairman turned up his nose at an initial model that whose internal upholstery came in the wrong color.

Brown's office tells Washington City Paper that "the chairman takes full responsibility" for the debacle. But what, exactly, does full responsibility entail? The willingness to have egg all over one's face in public? That particular choice isn't really up to Brown anymore. On the other hand, if he really wants to take responsibility, his next move is simple: Take out a checkbook and reimburse the city's empty treasury for the cost of your automotive grandiosity.

The $24,000 cost for a single year of Brown's spare Navigator is small potatoes compared to the council chairman's $190,000 annual salary. For that matter, so is the $48,000 cost for a year of both the black-on-black Navigator Brown prefers and the unfashionable gray-on-black model the District is still leasing despite the Chairman's declaration of its aesthetic unsuitability. But that money could still buy a lot: playground equipment, library books, a bunch of summer youth employment jobs. In fact, the cost of the two cars comes very close to adding up to the $48,715 that the Metropolitan Police Department—which may soon be shrinking its rolls thanks to the budget crunch—offers as a starting salary.

By writing a check to cover his boo-boo, Brown would offer an object lesson in real responsibility-taking on the part of a pol who claims to be serious about the budget. So, come on, Chairman Brown. Pay us back. And then enjoy your ride, entertainment system and all, guilt-free.

  • Erich

    That's a very nice thought, and I'd jump on this if Kwame was the kind of guy who paid his bills, but we all know he doesn't pay them, because bills are for lesser people than the Chairman.

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  • Rake

    Maybe this whole debacle was an attempt by Kwame to pull an end-around and get a lease for himself, since the only thing lower than his IQ is his credit score...

    Quaint thinking, though, that Kwame would pay for something he could stick someone else (in this case DC taxpayers) the bill for.

  • Hmmm…

    The more I think about it the less outraged I become. The waste is deplorable, no doubt about that but it's not like this is anything new, even when considering these are elected officials --- city council members no less.

    No one has batted an eyelash that CM Barry is tooling around town in a brand new jaguar although he owes tens of thousands of dollars in DC and Federal taxes. It's accepted as the cost of doing business (politics) in the District.

    Perhaps what's good for the jaguar is good for the navigator?

    If the Office of the Inspector General is powerless to investigate and stamp out waste why bother?

  • TK

    @hmmm Are you to suggest Barry isn't paying what he owes? There's a difference between not paying the back taxes at all and paying the off according to whatever agreement there may or may not be. Let's not jump to conclusions.

    At any rate, the silence from Brown's camp is deafening, although I would wager that he (and Gray) will figure out how to maneuver in crisis management at some point. Right? Otherwise, their terms are going to be a lot more painful for both them and us DC residents than they have been thus far.

  • Hmmm…

    @TK: My understanding is that when you have a garnishment (as is the case with Barry) that you have to make an accounting of all your expenditures. The garnishment is based on what you could afford. The idea being if you have enough disposable income for a luxury vehicle then perhaps you could afford more responsibility with the garnishment. The jag came after the garnishment.

    Agree that the silence is deafening.

  • Lady Justice

    You asked for it...You got it...Now pay for it your damn self. Lesson...be careful what you ask for...you may have to pay for it yourself. Next we will be buying a damn BOAT with taxpayer money. Stop this foolishness NOW.

  • Wendy Washington

    I agree with LL's suggestion that Kwame reimburse the city. We know Kwame "Let Me Get Over" Brown has no intention of reimbursing the city. His only intention is to take this city for everything he can before running us back into control board oversight.

    If we cannot recall him, at the very least, we should de-rail his ridiculous designs on the mayor's seat. I am not clairvoyant, but I expect this will be just the first of his incredibly stupid shenanigans. More to come over the next four years.

  • Southeast Ken

    One of the reasons Kwame is talking about returning the expensive lease vehicle because his office was flooded with emails from DC voters angry by his stupid ghetto actions.

  • ThomDC

    Marion's Jag is like 10 years old, far from new!

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  • http://gmail.com fred thedreit

    * Who in the DC gov't, will be completing the 1099 forms and mailing out, as required by the IRS, (this is a perk, or as unreported income), and to ensure this income, is claimed on the tax filing, or could this be considered tax evasion and the Feds prosecute??
    * Why doesn't the District require all DC govt persons, with a "free ride" - gas, insurance, vehicle, paid free by taxpayers, aka: "takehome", be required to file this as a perk, as unreported income, under a 1099 form, as required by the IRS??
    * Why hasn't DC issued these 1099 forms for this free ride ???

  • DUICouncil

    Kwame Brown's, "I'll take full responsibility for this", is akin to Fenty's, "I'll get back with you on that," mantra he used when his arrogant, self-serving actions were exposed?

    Kwame hasn't been the Chair more than a minute and I've heard his signature mantra, "I'll take full responsibility for this," soooo many times that I'm starting to confuse him with Fenty!