Loose Lips

Rep. Issa: Background Checks for D.C. Gov Political Appointees

Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is proposing new legislation that would require political appointees in District government to undergo criminal background checks.

"This bill will help prevent past failures by ensuring that District of Columbia leaders are held accountable for conducting and reviewing the results of background checks when making hiring decisions," Issa said in a statement. "Unless or until District leaders stop apologizing for outrageous abuses in government and adopt measures to address these problems, congressional action is the only way to implement needed standards as a bulwark against cronyism."

So what's behind this meddling in local affairs by the Republican congressman from California? Why, it's Sulaimon Brown, of course.

Issa's committee released a report today of its investigation into how l'affaire Sulaimon. They didn't find any wrongdoing on the mayor's part, but do shed new light on what a disastrous hire Brown was as a $110,000-a-year auditor for the Department of Health Care Finance. (LL just wants to point out that nearly a third of District residents are on publicly subsidized health care, making HCF a pretty important agency.)

Much of this has already been made public, but here are some more fun facts:

  • The report quotes Wayne Turnage, the head of HCF and Brown's former boss, saying that Brown didn't know what the spreadsheet program Excel was. The report includes work produced by Brown that was filled with spelling and grammatical errors. For example, here's a line from Brown's report on United Medical Center: "It would mislead if UMC financial position was excluded from the Districts financial statements."
  • When Brown was fired and escorted out of his office by police, LL reported the news shortly thereafter, which apparently surprised some members of the Gray administration. Says Gray's former chief of staff Gerri Mason Hall: "“[i]t is incredulous to me that Loose Lips had the story [on its Web site] so quickly." Holla!
  • After news broke of Brown's ugly dismissal, Turnage was at the Wilson Building for a budget meeting with Mayor Vince Gray. The mayor's first words were, according to Turnage: "What the fuck happened?" (Wait, did LL just hear the unofficial slogan of the Gray administration's first year in office?)

Turnage went on to say that Gray "claimed not to have known Brown was employed at HCF until that day," the report says. Close watchers of this soap opera will know that this statement contradicts Hall's story, which was that the mayor had seen Brown "sitting front and center" when Gray had come to address HCF staff about a month before Brown was fired. Hall said that on the car ride back from his talk with HCF staff, Gray noted he was surprised to see Brown working at the department.

Said Hall at her council hearing: "I said, 'Is there a problem?' And he said, 'No, I just was surprised to see him.'"

(Update: see this post on that last point.)

The report may pose some problems for federal prosecutors, though; their star witness in any potential case against members of the Gray administration—which would be Brown—doesn't exactly come off looking unimpeachably credible.

Official U.S. House photo of Darrell Issa via Wikimedia Commons

  • John

    Criminal background checks would be in order and would save future embarrasment of the administration.

  • Mike

    This is by far the smartest and most rational thing Issa has proposed to date.

  • Really?

    Hey Darrell! How about you background check your own house first.


  • Brian

    Thank you Issa. This seems totally appropriate.

  • SkinsFan83

    funny how you all praise an outsider's opinion on how ethics should be implemented but didnt VO propose that an independant body help enforce the ethics of the council?


  • Truth hurts

    The fact that congress is introducing legislation requiring background checks stems solely from Gray's utter failure to properly vet mayoral appointees. Look for additional measures if one city doesn't dramatically change course.

  • SEis4ME

    So we're really applauding Congress "telling" DC what to do?

    I swear, you tea party radicals have lost all sense of objectivity.

  • Blevins

    @TH, exactly. What a penny-ante bunch of idiots Vince assembled to not have done background checks to begin with. Background checks are a part of the application process for nearly ANY position nowadays. Of course, since Vince is stuck in '92, these things happen.

    Vince Gray, failing since DHS.

  • InItToWinIt

    The Republican govenment needs to stay out of local affairs. This is the problem with the Republican govenment they want to expand their powers to control the lives of local citizens while hiding behind the false veil of a belief in "smaller" "less intrusive" govenment footprint.

  • SkinsFan83

    @InItToWinIt yes thats true, but what can you do when everybody on the council who is involved in a scandal proclaims they can govern themselves?

  • InItToWinIt

    SkinsFan83, the citizens are in control here. Organize and send a message to every member who will be up for reelection that if they do not come up with a strong and tough ethics bill THIS SESSION, that they will be sent packing on election day in lieu of someone who will. We don't need a republican expansion of govenment in the District of Columbia. We should underscore the republican calls for federal expansion of government into local affairs. We are not slaves in the need of a federal overseeing master.

  • SkinsFan83

    @InItToWinIt did VO propose an ethics bill that would include the council position be a full-time gig with term limits and an independant governing body hold the council responsible for their actions? Nobody wanted that and everybody called him an opportunist.

    So honestly how can a council that majority of its members approve a bill that will affect their well being. Im sure any tough ethics bill will get voted down by Graham, Thomas, Brown, and Evans. Not to mention Cheh, because thats Brown's right hand person.

    Bowser is only trying to make a bill because that will define her term for re-election. She will have to cut a deal to get others to agree on something or else she is toast.

  • Terry Miller

    Criminal background checks would not have solved the Brown problem. The restraining order was never served so was a legal non-entity. It does not identify any other problems, such as lying on a resume, or claiming to be a D.C. resident when you are not, etc., etc., etc.

  • Really?

    "The fact that congress is introducing legislation requiring background checks stems solely from Gray's utter failure to properly vet mayoral appointees."


    The fact that the last administration appointed folks who were unqualified too only leaves one to beleive that stuff is cool with the slave master only if he likes the overseer.

  • michaeliceman

    Whether it is a good idea or not, I am not crazy about such a measure being imposed by Congress. There are 9 ethics bills in MB's committee.....there is no need for Congress to get involved at this point.

  • Typical DC BS

    Yup, good old DC comments. When the facts don't back you up, throw in the race card.

  • Truth Hurts

    @ really: slavemaster? overseer? Get a grip, dude.

    Read the committee report, and also Issa's statement as to why he's introducing the legislation. Has nothing to do with Fenty hires. It's based solely on Gray's serial screw ups regarding Gray's personnel choices.

    I'm about as anti-republican as they come, yet this republican shot accross the bow is entirely Gray's fault.

  • NE John

    Fuk this honkey, and I am white!

  • Really?

    @Th "I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves"

    TH holla at Harriet Tubman

    I don't don't care who, what where or how. NONE of those hillhogs deserves to stick there snout in our business.

  • Laughing

    First off, Darrell Issa is Middle-Eastern. What ineptitude! Why does the race card have to be played when someone proposes to do what is plainly right. Yes, VO proposed this item but of course all knew he would get nowhere with a crop of council criminals countering his ethical efforts. Ha ha ha.

    Second off, these DC politicians are nothing more than ineffective social workers in the grand scheme of government period! They need to be babysat or in other words told what to do as they have no political maturity to do what is right in this very small framework of governing. Did I say very small? Thirteen councilmembers cannot handle a population as tiny as the District, picture that! The more wrong committed in this cesspool of a city, the more one is favored and the more old school, brainwashed residents back these jerks. Harry Thomas is still present in his cheap pinstripe suits even though he STOLE more than a quarter million from children. In your face bought an Audi SUV and that was highly applauded. Doesn't watching the "occupy protestors" inject some sort of ethical fabric into the minds of residents to want this sort of corruption to cease in their own midst. But I am sure that the only potitics that matter is District's. That is the problem, myopy! This is a sick phucking city, I tell you.

    Yes, Congress needs to orchestrate, particulary when the councils would like to continue to tread on the path of corruption. Do you really think they would implement legislation regulating themselves? C'mon. What weak azz constitutions that are so lucid in DC's phony policymakers as well as in the majority of its old school residents who always feel picked on when Congress steps in, rightfully I might add.

    Vince Gray phucked up home-rule in the 90s when he mismanaged, misdirected, misused all that money as director of the Dept. of Human Services under Kelly and laughably he was voted in as mayor. Again, what a sick azz city!

    Thickheadedness rules in DC! The only home-rule, that is.

  • NE John

    Fuck you laughing. I paid $32K to the feds last year. FUK THEM and FUCK YOU!

  • NE John


  • Laughing

    @NE John - I understand your anger but you should be glad you paid it to them (Feds) rather than it going directly into the pockets of the councilmembers, their families, friends, etc for a horrid DC government customer service experience. You could have been paying for a trip to China for Kwame Brown's fat azz wife and kids.

    And you know, if you paid that much, which I believe you did, it is great to know that you being employed of some sort enabled you to do that. Look at it this way, you paid into a needed Fed charitable fund, perhaps for the service men and women who are daily putting their lives on the line for you, etc, even though I don't agree with the military's various occupations. And perhaps had you been giving to private, useful charities along the way, maybe you wouldn't have had shelled out so much. Just a thought.

  • Southeast Ken

    Laughing, did you know, middle easterners race in the U.S. is consider as white. Check out their birth certificates, middle easterners are classified as white. The same applies to Jews.

  • Laughing

    @SouthK - Just because the designation of white "so-called" cross-pollinates a variety of ethnic groups doesn't make this man Issa a "honkey" or "white" in theory. This is my point. I mean NE John is taking his name calling back to the 60s. And theoretically, "honkey" is an abbreviated term for a Hungarian factory worker. Is that so bad?

    Also, what you have said not only applies to the groups you've mentioned but also to Northern Africans. So, you mean to tell me that on the face of things you would say someone from Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Sudan are all white peoples. Give me a break!