- The Washington Times - Monday, June 13, 2011

A D.C. Superior Court judge’s decision to allow a potential witness to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights has effectively ended the hearings into Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s personnel practices, according to a D.C. Council memo.

The Committee on Government Operations and the Environment heard 26 hours of testimony from 19 witnesses in several hearings on the Gray team’s hires to the “excepted service,” or political appointees who serve at the will of the mayor.

The committee’s chairman, council member Mary M. Cheh, held the hearings to explore allegations from Sulaimon Brown, a minor mayoral candidate in 2010 who says he was paid and promised a job to bash incumbent Adrian M. Fenty on the campaign trail. It also explored “fast-track” hires who did not receive proper vetting and the employment of several children of well-connected people in the District.

One such “child,” Peyton Brooks, is the son of Howard Brooks, a campaign consultant whom Mr. Brown accused of delivering cash payments to him on behalf of the Gray campaign. The younger Mr. Brooks, like the other hired offspring, was hired to a city job and later resigned.

Ms. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, contested his request to remain silent because he had not been accused of criminal activity.

However, Mr. Brown recently testified about money orders he said were signed by Peyton Brooks, prompting Ms. Cheh to reconsider her legal position.

“Because of the allegations made about his involvement in the mayoral election, I believe that Howard Brooks also has a legitimate basis to claim a Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination,” Ms. Cheh told committee members.

Judge Curtis Von Kann interviewed the younger Mr. Brooks off the record and concluded that he had a valid claim. The committee may, however, submit written questions to Mr. Brooks and allow him and his attorney to decide which ones, if any, they would answer.

Ms. Cheh said the committee would gather additional documents and “nonlive” evidence before drafting its findings in a report.

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