Day 54 of the Vincent Gray administration was one of the worst, and by far the strangest.
A week of very bad news, punctuated by charges of cronyism in the hiring of the children of close aides, and the Kwame Brown SUV debacle, came to a head with the opera-like, lightning-fast rise and fall of Sulaimon Brown.
Gray came under intense criticism after the Washington Post mentioned, in the 15th paragraph of a Sunday story, that his administration had given Brown a $110,000-per-year post in the Department of Health Care Finance despite any evident relevant experience. In fact, his resume, which Gray released yesterday, doesn’t even contain the word “health.”
So who is Sulaimon Brown? The self-described graduate of the “University of the District of Colombia” has a degree in accounting, and has spent his career as an accountant and auditor. He also moonlights as a political figure with apparent delusions of grandeur. He volunteered for Adrian Fenty’s 2006 mayoral campaign, but became disenchanted with Fenty and decided to run for the District’s top job himself in 2010 -- despite some evidence that he was living in Maryland at the time.
His campaign website was full of photobombed pictures of Brown “with” folks like President Obama and Vice President Biden, and he claimed to have “helped in efforts to get White House Legislation passed and most recently trying to get a Supreme Court nominee appointed.” He spent most of his time in debates slamming Fenty -- even questioning whether Fenty loved his parents -- and urging Democrats to vote for Gray, even though he was running against him.
When Brown got any attention during the campaign, it was usually for strange behavior, such as claiming another candidate’s chair at a debate, and following Gray onto the stage at events. Reports this week said he faced a restraining order four years ago after being accused of stalking a teenage girl. He also faced a gun charge two decades ago that was later dropped. Brown finished last in the primary, with just over 200 votes.
Brown received far more attention yesterday than at any point during his candidacy, and he did not disappoint. When he was told Thursday morning that he would be terminated, Brown allegedly “became disorderly and made some statements that gave some people concern,” a source told the Washington Post. He was escorted from his office by police. Gray then spent much of the morning avoiding reporters, and Wilson Building security personnel tried to kick journalists -- including NBC Washington's Tom Sherwood -- out of the hallway in front of Gray’s office.
When Gray -- who had defended hiring Brown just a day before -- emerged for a 3:15 p.m. news briefing, Brown crashed the event and tearfully defended himself. According to the Post, Brown “called Gray ‘a great mayor’ but he said he was disappointed in his lack of support this week. ‘I have a 4-month-old son. His father needs a job. Period,’ he said through tears. ‘They let me go out without respect and without dignity.’”
Brown also blamed his firing on At-Large Councilmember David Catania, who called the accusation a “complete fantasy.” He added, “I think Mr. Brown has a number of issues and I am not one of them.”
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* Catania has asked D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan “to investigate whether a nonprofit group directed by a former drug kingpin applied for and received city funds to renovate a warehouse to help HIV/AIDS sufferers, then used the money to prepare the property for sale and eventual use as a strip club,” the Washington Times reports.
* The Post writes that “in an effort to, as he said, ‘put Gagagate to an end,’” Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham “has donated his final two tickets to tonight’s Lady Gaga concert at the Verizon Center to the Sitar Arts Center in Columbia Heights.” The Post says the “free tickets, compliments of the owners of the Verizon Center, had come to symbolize the perks associated with being a D.C. Council member.”
* Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton “is warning that if action isn’t taken soon the city government could be shut down if the federal government runs out of money next week,” the Washington Examiner reports. Norton has submitted a bill that would keep federal funds flowing to D.C. even if other funding is not appropriated. Meanwhile, Potomac Local says Virginia Railway Express CEO Dale Zehner said a federal shutdown would not impact VRE trains.
* The Metropolitan Police Department has come up with an exclusive list of “39 members of two warring gangs in Ward 4 who are considered most likely ‘to be shot or shoot,’” the Examiner reports.
* The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute urges District officials to pause before offering Whole Foods “an $8 million tax break to encourage it to open a store in a development-rich area of the District.”
* City Paper publisher Amy Austin says in an open letter that the paper’s Legal Defense Fund, set up to help defray the costs of a lawsuit filed against the paper by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, has raised more than $28,000 from more than 600 individuals.
* In an editorial, the Times not only comes out against any D.C. representation, saying “the choice to live in the city has always come with the knowledge that representation in Congress would not be part of the bargain,” but says the D.C. rights movement shows that the District “has too much taxpayer money on its hands,” and urges Congress to “adjust the D.C. subsidy accordingly.”
* The Baltimore Sun reports the Maryland Senate “voted 25-21 to approve the Civil Marriage Protection Act after two days of largely restrained and respectful discussion.” The vote on the “landmark measure…that would allow same-sex couples to wed” means the bill moves to the House of Delegates, “which appears nearly evenly split on the issue.” But the Examiner says the bill is expected to pass there, and Gov. Martin O’Malley has already promised to sign it.
* According to the Maryland Transportation Authority, about 36,500 motorists used the InterCounty Connector on its first day open to the public.
* The Examiner reports the Virginia Senate “passed legislation that would tighten regulations on abortion clinics in the state, handing a major victory to pro-life advocates who have long pushed for such measures.” The vote was a 20-20 tie, with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling casting the tiebreaking vote.
* The Post says “a group of labor and non-profit organizations sent a letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell criticizing his support” of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in that state’s fight over collect bargaining rights.
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC