Loose Lips

Sulaimon Rashomon! Gray Tries to Allay Doubts, Murk Remains

Mayor Vince Gray and the post-presser firing squad. (Lydia DePillis)

Mayor Vince Gray faced the press this afternoon to vehemently deny ex-Department of Health Care Finance employee Sulaimon Brown's accusations in the Washington Post that he was given cash payments and a lucrative job in the administration in exchange for support during the campaign.

The Post uncovered text messages from Gray to Brown, one of which said that "agreements" had been honored. Gray says this referred only to a promise that Brown would get a job interview, and that Brown's resume was good enough to merit consideration. "There was a feeling that he had the credentials," Gray said. "Clearly, the hope was that he would do well in that position."

Gray announced that he had directed D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan to launch an official investigation into the matter. He also invited Council Chairman Kwame Brown to undertake one as well.

But with a hot story on its hands, the Wilson Building media was doing its own questioning as well, pushing the mayor to explain how his administration came to offer a $110,000 job to a minor mayoral candidate who last year served as a reliable campaign-trail foil for Adrian Fenty the man Gray would eventually beat. Gray was also placed in the uncomfortable position of being asked for hard evidence to prove a negative—in this case, proof that Brown was not given the cash payments he claims to have received.

Brown had alleged that he had received the payments from Howard Brooks, a Gray campaign consultant. In the Post story, Brooks declined comment until he could have an attorney present. Gray, who says he hasn't spoken with Brooks recently, says he "worked very hard" and had "myriad responsibilities," among them working on outreach to taxicab drivers. Pressed on why Brooks hadn't categorically denied Brown's allegations, Gray said he didn't know.

As for Brown's hiring, Gray said that after an initial interview, Brown was referred to DHCF's chief of staff, Talib Karim. "I think they collaborated on this and decided to bring him on board," Gray said.

Asked about his close advisor Lorraine Green, who Brown also says gave him cash payments, Gray said he had heard three or four days ago about her intention to retire from Amtrak. He said he doesn't think the two are connected. She won't be joining the administration, he said, and her nomination to the Washington Convention and Sports Authority stands.

And regarding that 15-minute phone conversation that phone records show between Gray and Brown: Gray says he still can't recall exactly what it was about, but thinks it may have been in regard to a forum at the D.C. Insurance Federation.

In a sign of how rough a patch the new mayor has had, the day also brought news that Karim, the man Gray cited in explaining Brown's hire, had resigned just days after LL's report about his own questionable background.  Gray said he didn't know whether Karim was asked to resign or whether he did so voluntarily.

In classic damage-control style, Gray repeatedly tried to move the narrative forward from several week's worth of stories about bad hires and flashy cars, emphasizing high-quality appointments and talking up plans for education and workforce development. But he did acknowledge being concerned about public trust in his administration.

"It’s counterproductive and distracting," he said. "I want to move on with the business of the city."

An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed the department where Brown and Karim were employed.

  • I miss Fenty

    Brig Fenty back pleaaaaaaaaase

  • Rick Mangus

    You all think this is bullshit, did anyone see Fox 5 News at 10 on Monday night and the lying sack of shit president of UDC? This is the story that CP should of been on from the get go!

  • kingdom girl

    @another native (in no way being offensive), when have we not been in a deficit. You have almost fool proof evidence from the post that gray is a fraud and would have done anything to make AF look bad to get a vote. I had a front row seat watching it all unfold.
    The deficit has been downsized since all of this scandal has come to light. As I recall last week, it wasn't as bad as we thought (the deficit), is what the Gray Administration told the public. That's to explain that the salaries ranging $65,000 to $200,000 isn’t bleeding the city dry. Pay attention people. Had none of his shenanigans come to light, the deficit would have remained in the 400's. He relies on us being in the dark and not knowing any better. I believe everything that's going on with Sulaimon. . I had a front row seat watching it all unfold and I watched his actions this summer as I was in shame of his manhood even if he wasn’t. Something had to make him make a fool of himself. The Gray Campaign was also accused of giving people in ward 8 a $10 Giant gift card for their vote as well as a cab driver talking unknowingly on video about giving patrons a free ride to the polls only if they are voting for Gray. I remain watchful; I love this city and was happy with the direction it was going in. Now here we are again experiencing furloughs and jail overcrowding. This is sickening.
    Someone even mentioned something about the recreational centers, I don’t believe it. Our children have gotten the short end of the stick for years. They have always been the casualties of cut backs in this city (and are once again with the cut backs in summer employment) . At one point my son for at least 3 yrs. was coming home with Xerox copies of pages from a book because the city couldn’t afford to purchase books. This is beneath shameful. We had someone come into office and for once gave our children a chance and unbelievably to me the parents of our most vulnerable kids in the most vulnerable wards voting against their kids. We as society here complain about them being under educated and hanging on corners. I have never witnessed so many selfish people in my life. If he went into a deficit to benefit our children, so be it. No one else has ever had enough in them to care about what happens to them. He gave them schools, libraries, and recs. How can anyone complain about that? I’ve lived here all my life and I have never witnessed as much nonsense and ignorance as much as I have this past year.

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