- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sure he may have bigger fish to fry, but former D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown is now facing possible discipline from two D.C. agencies for failure to file campaign finance and financial disclosure forms, according to officials.

A fine or reprimand is hardly the worst of Brown’s troubles, considering he pleaded guilty this month to accepting $55,000 in bribes and faces a 37-month prison term when he is sentenced in October. However, failure to file the financial forms could put Brown on the hook for additional fines, adding to his well documented financial woes.

The D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability is pursuing a violation notice against Brown after he “respectfully declined” to file his 2012 financial disclosure statement this year, according to minutes from the board’s June 6 meeting.

“Initially, Mr. Brown requested an extension of several months, but this Office informed him that we would require an explanation before granting such a lengthy extension,” the meeting minutes state. “We later received a letter from his attorney on June 4, 2013, declining to file with no explanation.”

Brown’s attorney, Brian M. Heberlig, did not respond to requests for comment.

The letter indicating Brown had no plans to submit the disclosure forms in which he would have been required to report information such as any gifts or business income was received a week before Brown appeared in federal court to admit to accepting bribe cash that came stuffed in coffee mugs and duffel bags. The money was handed over by undercover federal agents who posed as representatives of a company seeking the then-council member’s help obtaining approval as a certified business enterprise so that it could qualify for lucrative contracts reserved for minority-owned companies.

Brown served as an at-large independent on the council from 2009 to 2013. He lost his re-election bid in 2012, prompting him to run in a 2013 special election for another at-large seat as a Democrat. In addition to the financial disclosure forms, officials are also awaiting Brown’s latest campaign finance report from that race which would cover donations and expenditures made to his campaign.

Brown, the son of former Democratic National Committee Chairman Ron Brown, ultimately dropped out of the race a few weeks before the election as a part of his at that point undisclosed plea agreement in the public-corruption case.

A spokesman for the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance said Brown requested a filing extension, but it was received June 11, a day after the deadline for either filings or extension requests.

Brown is now scheduled for a July 2 hearing before the agency’s general counsel, spokesman Wesley Williams said.

“He’s the only one,” Mr. Williams said, when asked if any others had failed to file.

It remains unclear what punishment Brown will face for the lack of disclosure in the two instances. The ethics board can issue anything from reprimands to $5,000 fines per violation.

The Office of Campaign Finance also issues fines to candidates who turn in tardy filings and previously has penalized Brown. In April, Brown was fined $500 after he did not respond to the office’s requests for additional information about his January campaign finance report.

While running for re-election last year, Brown’s campaign made headlines when it revealed $114,000 had gone missing from its coffers. Brown at the time pinned the blame on his then-treasurer Hakim Sutton, who endorsed 34 checks made out to himself that totaled the amount missing.

Mr. Sutton denied any wrongdoing. No charges were filed in the case, but upon announcing Brown’s plea agreement this month, U.S. Attorney for the District Ronald C. Machen Jr. said investigators don’t anticipate charging Brown with the theft.

Brown told officials that in taking over accounting responsibility after firing Mr. Sutton that he unintentionally missed filing deadlines. He supplied the requested documents April 1. He dropped out of the council race the next day.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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