- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2011

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s former chief of staff testified Thursday that she made errors in hiring for the administration and allowed informal standards to guide how much appointees were paid.

“Along the way, I made mistakes, including failure to pay sufficient attention to the background process,” Gerri Mason Hall, who was fired last month, told the D.C. Council Committee on Government Operations and the Environment.

Ms. Hall, however, said she has no evidence to suggest an arrangement between the mayor and Sulaimon Brown, who was fired from a $110,000-a-year D.C. government job before creating shock waves last month by claiming he received the job and cash payments to stay in last year’s mayor’s race and badmouth incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

She said she called Mr. Brown “a special case” in emails before his hiring because of his aggressive behavior and pursuit of the mayor, which caused a distraction. She decided to sit down with him over possible employment.

“Did the mayor know you were taking these steps?” asked council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat and chairman of the government operations committee.

D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh confers Thursday with council member Marion Barry. She plans to hold more hearings on the personnel practices of Mayor Vincent C. Gray's administration. She is chairwoman of the Government Operations Committee. (Barbara L. Salisbury/The Washington Times)
D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh confers Thursday with council member Marion ... more >

“No,” she said, adding later, “Eventually a full background check was done.”

Ms. Hall testified she has a note that suggests Gray confidante Lorraine A. Green instructed her in late December to discuss Mr. Brown with the mayor in regard to a position for him in the administration. Ms. Hall said she cannot recall the exact conversation.

Mr. Brown, though, managed to hijack the spotlight once again without opening his mouth - at least not in the right place. He briefly entered the chamber during the hearing before departing and delivering a rant in the lobby of the John A. Wilson Building.

Mr. Brown had been the most anticipated witness at a second hearing Thursday on Mr. Gray’s personnel practices, which have been dogged by allegations of nepotism and resulted in investigations by local and federal officials and agencies.

“I would not be a part of the witch hunt in there,” Mr. Brown said, moments before he was asked to report for testimony.

Mr. Brown instead made unsubstantiated claims that Mrs. Cheh and council member David A. Catania, who has aggressively questioned witnesses, are engaged in cronyism and not suitable to sit on the committee looking into Mr. Gray’s practices.

“They’re lawyers, they should know better.” he said, holding court over a circle of reporters. “That’s illegal, what they’re doing.”

His departure prompted Mrs. Cheh to sign a subpoena in the hallway during a break in testimony at the marathon hearing.

Mrs. Cheh said Mr. Brown is making up accusations to avoid testifying. Asked if she and Mr. Brown had mutual friends that might seek jobs in city government, she said, “I hope not.”

The process

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