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Moments after he shepherded the council to passage of a $9.4 billion operating budget, Mr. Brown said Tuesday he had no plans to resign and did not think he broke any laws during the 2008 campaign.

But by Wednesday afternoon, the door to Mr. Brown’s expansive office suite remained locked as staff walked in and out of the hallways and refused to speak about reports that their boss was about to be criminally charged. Mr. Brown’s deputy chief of staff said through the door they were engaged in a “staff meeting” and had no comment.

The flurry of media attention outside his offices caused mounting tension and even prompted an officer in charge of city hall security to request that reporters no longer attempt to gain entry to Mr. Brown’s office.

Intrigue mounted throughout the day, as Ms. Cheh returned from the funeral of a Marine and reported directly to the chairman’s offices.

Mr. Brown’s attorney, Frederick Cooke, also entered the office, although a deliveryman had been directed to a room across the hall and a constituent seeking to enter the office had been turned away.

Earlier in the day, a casually dressed Mr. Brown appeared to be in good spirits and told a reporter from The Washington Times in the hallway that he was ready for a normal workday.

‘The future of this government’

Mr. Brown and Mr. Cooke met with council members in closed session shortly after 3 p.m. to discuss the chairman’s future.

Council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, emerged from the meeting and said that Mr. Brown was “very businesslike and very heavy-hearted,” but the discussion was a “very frank and honest conversation.”

He declined to confirm publicly that Mr. Brown had resigned as chairman, adding he would like to give him the “courtesy” to speak for himself.

“I’m just, again, very sad for the District of Columbia and [have] a very heavy heart,” Mr. Wells said. “But I know the most important thing is to assure everyone that our city is going to be able to move forward.”

Heading into the meeting, council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, called the expected transition “an opportunity for real change.”

“I’m quite concerned about the future of this government,” he said.

Employees at city hall said council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, was the likely favorite to become the interim chairman while Vincent B. Orange, at-large Democrat, also was expected to make a push for the seat.

Mr. Brown defeated Mr. Orange, who could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, in the 2010 race for chairman.

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