At-large Councilman Michael Brown said Thursday that a staff member embezzled money from his campaign bank account, the latest allegation of financial impropriety leveled against a member of the city's embattled political establishment.
"I discovered information which indicated that unauthorized disbursements had been made from the campaign bank account by an individual who has assisted my campaigns for over five years," Brown said in a written statement. "Upon discovering this disturbing fact, I immediately contacted the Metropolitan Police Department."
Gwendolyn Crump, a spokeswoman for the department, said, "The allegation was brought to our attention, and we are conducting an investigation." The city's U.S. Attorney's Office did not return calls for comment.
Brown said he was replacing campaign treasurer Hakim Sutton immediately.
"As the one who discovered the alleged theft, I have decided to personally take over as the treasurer of my re-election campaign," Brown said. "To demonstrate my commitment to operate the campaign books transparently and ethically, I will bring in an independent auditor to ensure that all campaign activities meet the strictest fiduciary standards."
Asher Corson, a Brown campaign spokesman, would not say if Sutton was suspected of involvement in the alleged theft of funds. But he said that Sutton had been removed from all campaign operations.
Reached by telephone after Brown's announcement, Sutton still identified himself as the campaign treasurer and said he was "trying to piece together" what had transpired.
Brown, an independent who is seeking his second term as a lawmaker this fall, has a sizable campaign war chest. In a June filing to District campaign finance regulators, Brown reported he had more than $115,000 in cash on hand for the Nov. 6 contest.
The purported theft is the latest scandal to roil the District's political scene, which has been repeatedly rocked by criminal convictions, resignations and rumors of more trouble to come.
Kwame Brown resigned on June 6 as D.C. Council chairman after federal authorities charged him with bank fraud. Kwame Brown's sudden exit from the public arena cleared the way for Michael Brown to ascend to the No. 2 legislative post, chairman pro tempore.
Kwame Brown's conviction came five months after Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. pleaded guilty to stealing $353,500 in public funds earmarked for youth sports programs. Thomas also resigned and has since reported to a federal prison to serve a 38-month sentence.