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Cheh: Green’s testimony ‘implausible’

Council finds conflicts in testimony about administration’s job decisions

- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vincent C. Gray's campaign chairman says she never gave money or promised a job to the minor 2010 mayoral candidate who says he got both to furtively act as a Gray campaign operative last year.

Lorraine A. Green, a former Amtrak executive who also served a chairman of the mayor's transition team, told the D.C. Committee on Government Operations and the Environment on Friday that she remained on the periphery of the process that resulted in candidate Sulaimon Brown landing a high-paying government job.

Mr. Brown has said Ms. Green and fellow campaign worker Howard Brooks paid him to remain in the race to attack incumbent Adrian M. Fenty. Mr. Gray beat Mr. Fenty in the Democratic primary.

Ms. Green said she found Mr. Brown's behavior distasteful and called his request for a job last summer "premature."

She also said Mr. Gray promised Mr. Brown only a job interview.

Committee Chairman Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, seemed skeptical about Ms. Green's responses.

"I find it implausible that all we were talking about in terms of promises to Mr. Brown was an interview," she said.

Council member David A. Catania said Ms. Green's statements seemed odd, considering that Mr. Brown was among a group of potential employees for whom background checks were run.

"It does suggest that you had it in your mind already to hire him," said Mr. Catania, at-large independent.

Mr. Catania also said that other campaign supporters could not get even an interview, yet Mr. Brown without an interview got "a rocket docket" and the "friends and family treatment" to secure a $110,000-a-year job at the Department of Healthcare Finance.

Mr. Brown, a Democrat, was fired after questions arose about his background and behavior on the job, prompting him to hit back with the accusations against the mayor's campaign staff.

In addition to denying paying Mr. Brown, Ms. Green said she did not know payments were made by Mr. Brooks, who has invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and will not appear before the committee.

His son, Peyton Brooks, was one of several children of well- connected people who received a city job and later resigned.

Ms. Green said she has a "closer personal relationship" with the elder Mr. Brooks and speaks to him almost every day. Through her attorney, Ms. Green declined to discuss conversations she had with Mr. Brooks about Mr. Brown's accusations, citing an ongoing investigation into the matter by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Mrs. Cheh said the question will stand until the federal prosecutor is finished with his investigation.

Members of the committee expressed frustration with the fact-finding mission, saying hours of testimony from four hearings on the mayor's personnel practices did not always ring true and at least one witness likely perjured herself.

Mr. Brown, despite his central role, has refused to testify.

The committee voted to ask for a court order that compels Mr. Brown and another reluctant witness, Cherita Whiting, to appear or risk contempt. Their motion must go before the full council on Tuesday before it is forwarded to D.C. Superior Court.

Although a final committee report could be weeks away, Mrs. Cheh said the hiring process for people who serve at the will of the mayor has allowed for "a good deal of mischief."

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