Sulaimon Brown and Vince Gray: The entire story
On June 24, it had been 18 months since Brown had held a paying job. Before a candidates' forum, Brown and Gray spoke about Brown's financial difficulties, according to the the Washington Post's front-page scoop on the matter Sunday.
Step 3: Brown and Gray agree to ... something
According to Brown's account in the Post, Gray put Brown in touch with Lorraine Green, one of the mayor's closest confidants, and Harold Brooks, a campaign consultant. Subsequent text messages between Gray and Brown make it clear some agreement had been reached.
"[W]e did not renege on any commitments to you," Gray said in a late November text to Brown. "You know and we know what agreements had been reached. And none has been breached."
Brown said the agreement was for jobs for both himself and his brother, with his salary in the range of $125,000 to $150,000. The Gray campaign also agreed to give him cash payments throughout the campaign to keep his finances afloat, according to Brown.
Gray denied knowledge of any cash payments, and Green said she discussed Brown getting a job interview with the administration.
Step 4: Brown (maybe!) receives cash payments from Gray's staff
Brown says Brooks, who was paid $44,000 from Gray's campaign, gave him straight cash payments multiple times, often near Gray's campaign headquarters. Green also once gave him a $750 payment, says Brown.
Step 5: Gray becomes mayor
On Sept. 14, Gray defeats Fenty in the Democratic primary. He defeats nominal opposition on Nov. 2 to become mayor-elect.
Step 6: Brown gets a job, gets the boot, and goes public
Brown is hired to a $110,000-a-year job in the Office of Health Care Finance. The Washington Post publicizes the hire, and members of the media start asking questions about his qualifications and a restraining order a family sought against him. Brown is fired, led out of his office by cops and then crashes a Vince Gray presser. At that event, on a subsequent interview with NewsTalk on NewsChannel 8 and in interviews with the Post, he unloads his allegations against Gray.
Those allegations occasionally get a little loony: He accuses the Gray administration of fabricating court documents. Others are explosive: He says At-Large Councilmember David Catania demanded his firing.
Step 7: Gray responds
A little after 3 p.m. Sunday, Gray announces a 4 p.m. news conference. During it, he announces the he welcomes investigations from any and all authorities with the means to do so.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
1) The interview
The entire Gray defense appears to rest on this pivotal point: We promised him only an interview, not a job. Well, somehow, that interview looks to have gone pretty well, seeing how it turned into a job.
But consider this: Who actually interviewed Brown? Or did the guy just slip right onto the payroll?
And in insisting to the Post that there was no quid pro quo in their dealings, don’t the data say otherwise? Even if you believe Gray’s line about the no promises of a job, isn’t an interview a quo? Or a quid of some sort? Think about how many people out there would have killed to make it to a final-round interview for a position that pays in the six figures.
2) The culture
The surface conclusions about the Gray-Brown scandal involve judgment. How could our mayor have been so dumb as to actually engage with this guy?
The deeper question relates to Gray’s seeming insistence on reviving a bygone politicking style, that of viewing city jobs as a way of solving your political problems. It has already been noted that Gray has put relatives on the payroll and shown little knack for state-of-the-art vetting mechanisms. Even if you buy the mayor’s just-an-interview protestations, a troubling narrative is still at hand. And that is that Gray was manipulating the city treasury for his political betterment long before he even commanded it.
The Fenty faithful last year sunk a lot of money and sweat into convincing voters that Gray stood for the politics of the past. Voters either weren’t convinced or didn’t care. Just a couple of months into his mayoralty, though, Gray appears determined to deliver on this campaign promise of the Fenty camp.
3) The spin
Gray did two things well yesterday. First, he begged for investigations to start. The District's attorney general and inspector general are ready to go. This gives Gray a very convenient excuse to dodge any and all questions about Brown's allegations.
Second, while Gray did say there were "credibility issues" with Brown, he left the heavy questioning to others. Mo Elleithee, a consultant who worked on Gray's campaign, went further in a series of Twitter messages: "Sulaimon is nuts," he said in one. Getting that argument out there — without having to directly attack Brown — is a smart (but dirty) way to handle it.
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