Latest D.C. Council Scandal Stirs Ethics Talk, But Not From Mayor Gray

When Michael A. Brown was a Council member, he cut a large, well-tailored, confident figure in public on the council dais. 

But now he’s heading to federal court Monday to plead guilty to a felony bribery charge that has roiled city politics and shaken the fast-developing mayor’s race.

Mayor Vincent Gray rebuffed reporters when they sought to ask him about Brown, the third member of the Council to plead guilty to felony wrongdoing.

“Any reaction to Michael Brown,” News4 asked the mayor at one of his personal appearances. The mayor said he didn’t have enough information and had no comment, but might comment later. He walked away, resisting other reporter questions that maybe he should have something to say to the citizens of the city.

The mayor has been reluctant to say anything about not only Michael Brown but former Council Chairman Kwame Brown and former Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas Jr. Both Kwame Brown and Thomas had to resign their seats as they separately plead guilty to their own felony charges just over a year ago. Some advisers say the mayor is reluctant to express outrage or concern because his own 2010 campaign for mayor is the subject of a wide-ranging federal criminal investigation.

But Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, appearing on the Kojo Nnamdi WAMU Politics Hour, wasted no time, calling the Brown episode embarrassing to the city and damaging to public trust.

“The system in many ways worked,” Evans told the radio audience.  “The FBI caught him. He’s going to plead guilty and in all likelihood will be going to jail.”

Evans is announcing his campaign for mayor Saturday morning. 

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who had named Brown to a leadership role, bemoaned the “cloud of corruption” hanging over the city with this latest episode of wrongdoing.

Mendelson said the cloud likely would remain until U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen completes his numerous investigations.

Both Mendelson and Evans used the same word in separate interviews.  They said the council members and other city leaders “must redouble our efforts” to show that the city government is not hopeless corrupt.

And already announced candidates for mayor Tommy Wells and Muriel Bowser also are pledging a more ethical government -- insuring ethics reform will remain a major focus of city politics.

U. S. Attorney Ronald Machen’s office, as usual, had nothing to say when the court papers were filed Friday. But more will be revealed about Brown’s bribery charge on Monday and Machen may have something to say then.

But more importantly than what he says on Monday, is what he’s doing to bring his varied investigations to a close.

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