- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Tuesday ordered reluctant witness Sulaimon Brown to testify next week before a D.C. Council committee exploring Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s hiring practices.

“That’s fine,” Mr. Brown said, as he and Judge Judith N. Macaluso negotiated the terms of his appearance.

It was an uncharacteristic utterance from Mr. Brown, who spent the last several weeks saying he had not been properly summoned by the committee and had no intention of answering its questions.

Mr. Brown, a minor candidate in the 2010 mayoral race, says he was paid in cash and promised a job by Mr. Gray’s campaign team to bash incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. Mr. Brown was hired to a $110,000-per-year job and then fired after issues about his past came to light, as well as his behavior on the job.

While making himself available to reporters, Mr. Brown had thwarted process servers who attempted to serve him with a subpoena from the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment. Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat and chairman of the committee, sent Mr. Brown a subpoena in the mail during the first week of May after in-person efforts to serve him were not successful.

But disputes over whether Mr. Brown had or had not been served ended on Tuesday, after the council’s attorney, V. David Zvenyach, told the court that servers on Friday afternoon had issued a subpoena to a woman who lived with Mr. Brown.

Judge Macaluso said the affidavit of service outweighed Mr. Brown’s protestations that his housemate had taken his son to Florida at least a month ago and stayed there. Mr. Brown later declined to elaborate on his relationship with the woman.

Mr. Brown acquiesced to the judge’s order, even praising her professionalism, yet tried to lay down some ground rules for the hearing. He said he is unemployed and looking for work to support his family, so he cannot appear before the committee all day.

“I have no intention of sitting there for five, six, seven, eight hours,” he said. “I’m not going to do it.”

Judge Macaluso’s order compels Mr. Brown to appear from 1 p.m. The hearing must break for the day if it lasts until 7 p.m.

Outside the courthouse on Tuesday, Mr. Brown said D.C. residents deserved “closure” on the issue and that “you have to pick your battles.”

Mr. Brown said public comments about him by two committee members, Mrs. Cheh and David A. Catania, at-large independent, indicate they are not impartial, so he has placed his faith in parallel federal investigations. If any of his responses before the council impede ongoing investigations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office or a House oversight committee, “it’s not my fault,” he said.

He complained that any resident of the District could be “grabbed off the street” by the council, and he criticized the mayor for lacking leadership on questions surrounding his personnel practices.

“The mayor did everything that I said he did,” Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Gray has denied knowledge of any payments or quid pro quo agreements with Mr. Brown. His aides testified Mr. Brown was promised an interview, but nothing more.

“The mayor directed members of his administration — and encouraged anyone involved — to fully cooperate with all investigations,” Gray spokeswoman Doxie McCoy said Tuesday. “Mayor Gray first called for an investigation into allegations and remains confident that they will reveal no wrongdoing on his part.”

For the council, Mrs. Cheh expressed her gratitude to the court in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

“Once again, we are giving him a chance to explain himself, which he had previously promised to do without a subpoena,” she said. “Now it has taken not only a subpoena, but a court order backed by threat of contempt to actually have him come forward.”