The Bigger Scandal (Updated)
The biggest scandal reported this week has nothing to do with sport utility vehicles. It's the news, first reported in the Post, that Mayor Vince Gray's administration has hired failed mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown to be a "special assistant" at a $110,000 a year with the Department of Health Care Finance.
This is a serious misstep by Gray, and reflects poorly on his judgment. Let's look at why:
1) Brown's antics on the campaign trail last year included claiming former Mayor Adrian Fenty doesn't like his parents, refusing to get out of a chair that wasn't his at a mayoral debate, bothering cameramen who are trying to work, and threatening legal action against media outlets for not covering his campaign.
Brown also became Gray's No. 1 fan during candidate forums, often seen hanging from Gray's side and repeatedly telling crowds to vote for the future mayor. In other words, Brown was like a wannabe crony.
No one at these forums took Brown's candidacy seriously, including himself. His common refrain was: "If you don't vote Brown, vote Gray."
His strategy apparently worked: Brown got only 209 votes.
LL wasted a few hours looking into Brown's public records last year and reported that Brown had a Maryland driver's license, even though he says he's never lived in Maryland. The address on the license is a house in Prince George's County where the owner says Brown used to visit occasionally.
Brown's also run into legal trouble here in the District. Court records show gun charges against Brown were dropped in 1991 in exchange for Brown going to a diversion program, and a jury found Brown guilty in 1995 for unlawful entry.
More recently, a restraining order against Brown was signed by a judge in 2007, court records show. Police were not able to locate Brown to serve the order, which expired, records indicate. Protective orders can be easily obtained, and Brown never had a chance to defend himself against the allegations made by the woman seeking the order. When LL called Brown to ask about it, he hung up right away and did not respond to a second call.
2) The Department of Health Care Finance is the District's Medicaid agency, managing about a quarter of the District's annual budget. It's not immediately clear what Brown's role will be in the agency, but with a $110,000-a-year salary, LL expects it to come with some level of responsibility.
But Brown appears to have no knowledge or experience in the highly complicated world of Medicaid. Yesterday on WTOP, Gray defended Brown and other questionable hires by saying that his administration is putting "subject matter experts in place" to help his new agency heads.
Take a look at Brown's bio from his campaign resume and see if you think he's a subject matter expert on Medicaid, or well, anything:
Always interested in public service and politics, he has volunteered in the community in programs such as Earth Day; Sulaimon cares deeply about the environment and worked behind the scenes campaigning for many elected officials. Most recently DC Mayor Adrian Fenty whom he no longer supports, DC council member Michael Brown, Former DC assistant attorney General Ron Magnus and The President of the United States Barack Obama. He has helped in efforts to get White House Legislation passed and most recently trying to get a Supreme Court nominee appointed.
Sulaimon Brown has volunteered to help our wounded troops back from Afghanistan and Iraq.
He will bring a wealth of experience and background understanding to the District of Columbia Government. He has worked as a senior financial statement auditor and accountant and actually worked on the CAFR (comprehensive annual financial report) audit of Washington DC. He has years of experience in finance and accounting and he understands the inner workings of the DC Government. He and Anthony Williams—former mayor of DC—share similar professional backgrounds.
LL has asked the Gray administration for more details on Brown's hire—like who his past employers are, what his actual experience was working on the CAFR, and which Supreme Court nominee did he help.
So far, LL hasn't heard anything back, but is off the mayor's weekly news conference to find out more. Stay tuned for an update!
At a news conference today, the mayor says Brown sought a job with the Gray administration and “we actually connected him with the Department of Health Care Finance” where he was interviewed by the director. Gray says Brown will be an auditor and “has a background as an accountant. He’s qualified to do that work.”
“We believe he has the requisite skills to do the job. Just like anybody else, if that proves not to be the case, he won’t be there,” says Gray, adding that Brown won’t be in an upper management-type position and will be “supervised closely.”
As for whether Brown’s background was vetted, Gray said he wouldn’t go into that but promised to release as much information about Brown’s work history as personnel laws allow.
When NBC4’s Tom Sherwood brought up the C word, Gray responded: “Well, I don’t see it as cronyism, Tom. I see it as somebody who applied for the job and was qualified for the job and was hired.”