- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 5, 2011

The saga behind D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown’s fully loaded Lincoln Navigators just won’t go away.

Mr. Brown, a Democrat, says recent reports that he ordered a luxury sport utility vehicle earlier this year to be on par with Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s are based on third-party conversations instead of “the facts.”

But he also said he “takes full responsibility” for the controversy related to the taxpayer-financed Navigators, leased for his use as chairman.

The controversy emerged several months ago with news reports that Mr. Brown attempted to return a luxury Navigator ordered for him because he didn’t like the color of the interior, so he got a second one. Both remain parked and in the city’s possession.

The issue re-emerged Friday with the release of emails obtained by the Washington City Paper.

The emails expand on a January report in the City Paper and show D.C. Department of Public Works employees discussing Mr. Brown’s request for a vehicle like the mayor’s.

In one notable exchange, the employees foretell a backlash from the use of taxpayers money for the SUVs and the need to document each step of the procurement.

“I want to make sure that we can tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth on the purchase of this vehicle and the waste and abuse of taxpayers money,” DPW employee Michael Biggs wrote to a subordinate.

Mr. Brown said the ensuing news blogs were based on email conversations among DPW employees and involved multiple layers of hearsay.

“They said that someone said that I wanted it,” Mr. Brown said Friday, referring to claims he tried to get a vehicle comparable to Mr. Gray’s.

Responding to a more recent reports that he also rejected an Chevy Tahoe during his transition into the chairman’s office, he said the vehicle had Maryland tags.

“I don’t think any chief legislator of any state would be caught driving tags from another jurisdiction,” Mr. Brown said.

The Tahoe was returned in January after being struck outside the John A. Wilson Building, Mr. Brown said.

“I was inside, working,” he said.

The saga continues amid an audit of Mr. Brown’s campaign finance reports from his re-election bid in 2008 and a final vote on the District’s fiscal 2012 budget.

Mr. Brown, praised for his leadership so far in the budget negotiations, says there is “so much more going on in the city. I’m not throwing a staff member under the bus, no one under the bus.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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