Loose Lips

Navigatorgate: The Prequel

Turns out that Council Chairman Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown didn't just reject one pricey SUV, he rejected two.

We all know by now that Brown made the city order him a second luxury Lincoln Navigator because he didn't like the first one's gray interior. But what's been undisclosed, til now, is that Brown also turned up his nose at a 2011 Chevy Tahoe because, according to an email between Department of Public Works staff, he wanted a Navigator just like the mayor's.

Emails obtained through multiple Freedom of Information Act requests show that in the fall of 2010, DPW wanted to lease the incoming chairman a new Chevy Tahoe, the same model the outgoing chairman (who, you may recall, was getting a promotion to mayor) had driven.

But there was a problem: a leased Tahoe wasn't immediately available. So DPW rented Brown a 2011 Tahoe for the two months between the general election and his swearing-in. The price: $3,659.58.

The emails contain two quotes from a leasing company for long-term leases for a 2011 Tahoe, but it's not clear if any lease was actually signed and if one was, what happened to it. LL will update when he finds out.

In any event, it turns out there was an even bigger problem than the delivery date of a potentially leased Tahoe. One day after the rented Tahoe was delivered on Nov. 4, Larry Cooper, the D.C. Council staffer who acted as a liaison between Brown and DPW, told DPW staff the chairman-elect did not want just a plain ol' Tahoe. Here's a Nov. 10 email from DPW employee Michael Biggs to his subordinate Greg Harrelson, who acted as DPW's point person in getting the lease on Brown's Tahoe.

"I had a talk with Larry Cooper last Friday and he said Chairman Brown wants a Navigator comparably equipped as Mayor Gray's. I told him ok. So make sure we get that instead of another Tahoe. 10-4?"

Brown, you'll recall, has always denied that he wanted to copy the mayor's ride and said he merely requested a black-on-black SUV. That excuse has been hard to swallow from the start, but it's even more so now, seeing all the effort Harrelson put into getting Brown a Tahoe.

Harrelson worked with Cooper starting in September on trying to find the right vehicle for Brown. In an Oct. 4 email, he extolled the virtues of a Tahoe. "This model would be a great choice because it comes in a hybrid and ethanol power format," Harrelson wrote.

Two weeks later, Harrelson sent Cooper an email with details about Chevy Suburbans, which are like Tahoes but with a bit more space. In the subject line, Harrelson wrote "Larry, The Suburban has the [navigation system], alloy wheels, premium sound system and more." (If those features sound familiar, it's because they are the exact same features one of Brown's staffers would later tell DPW needed to be in Brown's second Navigator.) By the end of October, Harrelson even had a quote from a leasing company for a three-year lease on a Tahoe for $895 a month. (The Navigators Brown eventually leased, of course, cost nearly $2,000 each.) The Tahoe's color scheme: black with black leather seats.

But, alas, as we all know by now, a fully loaded black-on-black Tahoe or Suburban for Brown just wasn't meant to be.

The emails indicate that the Tahoe was returned to the rental car company on Jan. 3, but not before taking a few lumps. Three days before Christmas, Harrelson sent Biggs an email that said "here are the photos of the damaged mirror on the Tahoe that Kwame Brown was using." The attached pictures show that the front part of the driver's side mirror was destroyed, and there were scratches on what appears to be the driver's side front bumper. LL will update when he hears back on who is responsible for the damage and who paid for the repairs.

In the meantime, here's probably the best nugget in the FOIAs. It's an email exchange on Dec. 30 between Biggs and Harrelson.

"You need to make damn sure that you are able to show exactly everything from a to z, and who said what and when concerning this Navigator issue for Chairman Brown. One day someone is going to come back and dig into this. I want to make sure that we can tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth on the purchase of this vehicle and the waste and abuse of taxpayers money," Biggs wrote.

Harrelson's reply: "You're absolutely right. This thing smells to high heaven."

Comments

  1. #1

    That's what happens when you elect a financial nincompoop to head the DC Council who is tone-deaf to political aspects of his decisions.

    Plus, it seems he doesn't know how to drive either!

  2. ColorMeSkeptical
    #2

    What. an. asshole.

  3. #3

    Of all the players in this scandal, those two DPW employees appear to have shown the most common sense of everyone.

  4. #4

    Sure seems "Fully Loaded" is a couple of cards short of a full deck. Kwame should just resign now and get it over with. He is done!

  5. #5

    Is it legal for the city to pay for/furnish an elected official with perks BEFORE the official's term begins?

    If so, was Brown's salary bumped up BEFORE he was sworn in? How about Gray? Where they BOTH driving council chair rides at the same time? Or did Gray get the mayoral Navigator early, too?

    Most everything about DC politics "smells to high heaven" these days.

  6. #6

    ONE CITY, baby!

    Oh, boy Kwame. It just never ends, does it....

  7. #7

    this guy has always been a joke. his dad played the name gamne on us at the right time. if u live in this city the last 10 years. u will remember the NBA player for the wizards. his name was KWAME BROWN. his dad had a roladex of addresses where the home owner would allow campaign signs in there yards 4 some small perk. the NBA guy name was in the newspaper often so thats when marshall grab that name reconition for his son who has never been anywhere near a smart young man. and thats who we got watching the district dollars. we all knew this when he ran 4 council chairman. you all didnt like VINCENT ORANGE,who is and attorney and accountant. we get what we deserve.

  8. #8

    @TH
    in the waning says before the general election there was some bullshit legislation passed that was nominally intended to facilitate the transition.
    This is the result.

  9. #9

    Beside allowing for private funding of the transition process, I mean.
    What a load of crap that covered c

  10. #10

    Here's the great undoing beginning. Back to the Marion Barry days folks.

  11. #11

    move on to something else... please
    old story...beat a dead horse dead.

    nothing else to report?

  12. #12

    I disagree. The drum should be pounded on this so the voters of the District never put people like this in office again.

    A guy can dream, can't he?

  13. #13

    Sunderman should be the new inspector general!

  14. #14

    Why are DC taxpayers required to pay for any personal vehicles for local officials? Let them drive their own cars or ride Metro, and reimburse their expenses for work-related travel. Or let them sign a standard Chevy or Ford sedan out of the government motor pool.

  15. dcgovcorruption
    #15

    Alan, thanks for the latest kwame tidbit.

    What is going on at the office of campaign finance with its probe of kwame.

  16. #16

    Kwame's two "Fully Loaded" Navigators are still sitting in a DC impound lot. They were never returned to the leasing company! And yes, DC tax payers are still paying for them.

  17. #17

    So, he's eligible for recall in January? Hmmm....

  18. #18

    All i can do is sigh, we need to rethink our system of government from top to bottom. I honestly believe that pure lack of options has given us this shameful situation. Since the only other positions in DC politics are ANC and BOE (both with little to no power). We end up with candidates who have name recognition and old school ties. Is it too late to vote for Kathy Patterson??

  19. There will be more
    #19

    Pending scandals:

    1. When does Kwame pay the city back for the cost of the Fully Loaded SUVs?

    2. When does the office of campaign finance complete audit and announce fines for the money Kwame's 2008 campaign funneled to his brother and failed to report?

    And does the US Attorney investigate as a crime?

    3. When does Kwame release a full accounting of his 2010 transition committee, as he promised to do?

    4. When does his wife catch him sticking his little dick where it doesn't belong?

  20. #20

    D.C. is still paying for Fenty's smart car too...

    @SickofStory, this is a new, big piece to this story.

  21. #21

    Kwame Brown should be embarrassed. He is wasteful and disrespectful to all taxpayers.

  22. #22

    @Therewillbemore

    Probably the most likely to be illegal scandal, Team Thomas, is still being investigated. Irv is having to triage all these scandals. Kwame hasn't done anything too illegal yet (except 2008 campaign finances) he's just incompetent.

    OCF is pretty worthless at investigating, Kwame isn't legally bound to release transition details, and they're still digging through 2008, they're either woefully understaffed, or told to drag their feet (or just incompetent...)

  23. #23

    Wow. Great reporting guys. We need LL digging up the dirt on these guys. They certainly can't be trusted to operate honestly independent of it.

  24. #24

    LL, please don't ever stop referring to him as "Kwame 'Fully Loaded' Brown."

  25. #25

    I'm not losing sleep over this scandal, but I would appreciate an apology from Kwame for abusing his power and wasting tax payer money.

  26. MadWard7Resident
    #26

    Let me just say that as a Ward 7 resident, I am embarrassed and ashame of Vince, Kwame and Yvette!

    I can not wait until the next election......April 2012
    First up CM Yvette Pig Feet Alexander!
    You will be the first causality of this drama! Sorry!

  27. #27

    @MadWard7Resident - I agree witcha. As a W7 resident too, I believe Yvette "Pig Feet" Alexander must go now. The reason she is so stupid is because she's always been that way and was placed as council for that very reason. Yvette is a big ole Aunt Sally you know what I mean. You know the kind: yes sah, yes sah. She can be told what to do so easily and those who are controlling Ward 7 are doing just that to Yvette. In a way, I feel sorry for her because she is so pathetic. Her Ward 7 address was a fail though I hope she is really losing weight as she told the W7 public. Too much fat on your back, under your arms, will kill you. That shiX is weighing on your heart girl. Pull away from that table! I said pull away from that table! Stop eating at every engagement you attend...leave the food for people who really look hungry because girl you can miss a week's worth of meals without passing out.

    Next, Vince "stink breath-yellow teeth-powder man face" Gray is just is just is just...how can I say this gently. I cant. We will see that he has always been a "Yes sah" man to the other side of the fence. I think Vince has a rabbi - that would be the other side.

    Kwame "panda eye-raccoon face-midget man" is living out his dream which is a nightmare for all of us. You know Kwame needed those King-Sized rides to transport his overweight lover in the Brown house. His wife is a robust mamacita, with plenty fat on her back too (like a linebacker) and needs plenty of space and the kids need plenty of space too in order to withstand those burrito farts.

    Michael Brown is up in the picture as well looking like a big, dumb bald bird who trashed the legacy of his father's name - hiding in the background...not really wanting to look in the face of those who know he was reportedly digging in Cherita Whiting while she was sinking her dirty, long, twisted nails in his back and dropping her saggy face low in his lap.

    I see you H. Thomas. I can go on you too. You know that but I wont because you's a sexy mofo. How lame of me, right? Besides you are looking really frightened up there (like you just saw a ghost so I reserve until some other time). Still, I want to hit that, ya heard? Hey, Cherita and Michael B. did it.

    I'm laughing like XXXX!!!!!!! Don't mind me ya'll. I just needed to have a little laugh.

  28. #28

    Kwame is an idiot!!!

  29. Wendy Washington
    #29

    @SamuelMoore, I agree with your post #22, as a Ward 5 resident, I am looking forward to the Thomas investigation, which is (in some ways) a higher priority than the Fully Loaded cartoon show.

    Yes, Kwame's questionable payments to his brother's company may be just as illegal/unethical as HTJ's alleged slush fund, but HTJ had promised to release the documents before we learned of Kwame's creative accounting during the 2008 campaign. HTJ continues to employ stalling tactics and unfortunately Fred Cooke is complicit here. (He's just as suspect as the shysters who only represent drug dealers.)

    These are the two scandals that should interest DC citizens the most. As embarrasing as the "fully loaded" escapade has become, the campaign fund issue may be an indictable offense. Just as the Team Thomas slush fund could be to be a violation of the law, making HTJ worthy of indictment too.

    It all depends, as you so aptly described it, how will Irv Nathan triage all these scandals. If the OCF ever gets some stones and uses them, we just might see these things go to court.

  30. MadWard7Resident
    #30

    @Coconut Milk...you are funny!

    Your boy Harry is a punk....just to let you know.
    Ask the boyz/girls at the Stadium Club!

  31. #31

    No offense....but...this horse is on life support. Can we put the bat down? LOL!!!

    Now....about the Team Thomas investigation...

  32. #32

    @Truth Hurts: You raised some very valid questions.

    ALL of the scandals that have come out are ridiculous. Each one needs to be handled rather than misdirected. DC citizens deserve more order, respect and decency from their leaders. The majority of these council members act like clowns released from a circus from hell.

    Why was a grown ass man like Michael Brown reciting the alphabet over another council member's voice? He looked like a damned fool. Whether he likes Marion Barry or not, there is a certain thing like decency and respect on the council dais.

    @Coconut Milk: the alternative view you gave of Michael Brown and Cherita Whiting has been voiced in comments before. You were, however, the best at describing it thus far.

    The Fenty administration had its share of scandals too and there is no difference from that circus than this one except things have become more outrageous than ever since Gray became mayor. He has lost sight of the things he used to claim to stand for and become the very things he was so passionately claiming to put down.

    Every last cast member imbroiled in a controversy should leave at recall time in January. Enough is enough.

  33. #33

    @ Marciela: Michael Brown threatened to recite the alphabet, didn't actually do it. Watch the video. Mendo tried about 3 times to cut off Barry's microphone. If you look at the video, I suspect you'll agree that Barry was out of order.

    I agree with your comments about the pathetic state of affairs and would love to see a recall (for 3 people) mounted.

  34. #34

    @Truth Hurts: When I saw the news clip, they all looked out of order to me, like unruly children. It was embarrassing to the citizens of DC who are already embarrassed enough by these wild antics of theirs. You and I agree completely on the recall. I'm just not sure it should be limited to three people.

  35. #35

    @ Marciela: I agree that a few others merit being recalled. But only those elected city-wide (eg, mayor, council chair, and at-large CM's) would likely be in danger of actually being removed, although Harry "getting ready to release those records" Thomas richly deserves to go too.

  36. #36

    TH Any white folks deserve being recalled?

  37. #37

    Jim Graham, but he also wasn't elected city-wide. Besides, just like Barry, voters in his ward reelected him despite knowing his misdeeds. So I doubt recall efforts would go anywhere for either of these guys.

    Thomas, on the other hand, told his constituents BEFORE reelection that he was going to publicly release the slush fund records. He flat out lied to them.

    If Gray's felon fraudster lobbyist buddy (white) Bruce Bereano were a CM, he'd also be on the list. In his case, I'd settle for the council passing a law barring out of state felons from lobbying in DC.

    If you think I'm paying attention to race here, you don't know me, what I do, or who my friends are.

  38. #38

    Can I just say: Wow!?
    I mean, not only is it looking like Team Gray did pay off Suliamon (a Maryland resident) to campaign for Mayor last year, but they did it using money orders?
    How stupid is that?

  39. #39

    Great catch, Drez. Peyton Brooks and his dad, Howard Brooks, claim through their lawyer they played no part in this fraud.

    Gee whiz, if that's so, wonder why they're refusing to testify on self-incrimination grounds. Anyone want to start a perp walk pool? Person who picks the month/day the first perp gets arrested takes all. I'm guessing around September/October, given summer vacations and all.

  40. #40

    I'm hoping they flip on Green.

  41. #41

    @Insider Preach!

  42. #42

    Green, Gray, Brooks and several others have lawyered up. The sheer number of folks who felt it necessary to retain counsel establishes there were crimes committed. Someone likely will flip before the train leaves the station. Who knows?

    Typically the early bird gets the best deal. Emails and text messages often are the most incriminating items of evidence. The FBI's already subpoened text message records, I'm sure. Wonder whether they've seized computer hard drives yet.

  43. #43

    Stating the obvious, but it's a disgrace.
    Good people will shun him for this.

  44. hillary thomson
    #44

    how is it possible that elected officials have the nerve to drive an expensive vehicle when a large percentage of the population are unemployed? we will see soon in cities such as dc the public outcry that we are seeing in places such as egypt, spain, etc. enough is enough!

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