Opinion

Examiner Local Editorial: D.C. Council member has lost all credibility

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Opinion,Local Editorial

D.C. Council member Michael Brown, I-at large, expects voters to believe that he had no idea that $113,950 went missing from his re-election account. But given his own questionable behavior over the years, he has forfeited the benefit of the doubt.

Brown claims "unexplainable expenditures" were surreptitiously made by former campaign treasurer Hakim Sutton, whom he fired in June. Sutton's attorney insists his client was just following orders from Brown. So somebody is not telling the truth, and Brown's long record of evasion and deception suggests that somebody just might be him.

In 2008, the son of former Democratic National Committee Chairman Ron Brown suddenly claimed he was an "independent" to circumvent the Home Rule Act, which doesn't allow more than three at-large members to be "affiliated" with the same party. Brown, who campaigned as an "independent Democrat," failed to report $122,000 in expenditures during that campaign.

Earlier this year, council members repealed controversial online gambling legislation that Brown had pushed through at the last minute. At a Jan. 26 hearing before the Finance and Revenue Committee, he denied that he snuck the gambling provision into the FY2011 supplemental budget bill without proper public vetting. His version of events was challenged by committee Chairman Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, who noted in a Feb. 1 memo that "questions were raised as to whether the members of the Council were actually aware of the inclusion of i-gaming in the bill, particularly as it was not circulated until 2:17 am the day of the initial vote." Evans added that the timeframe "did not allow for residents or other stakeholders to express their views through a formal hearing process." As it happens, Brown was then employed by a law firm with a gaming practice.

Brown's handling of his private finances is apparently just as undisciplined as his public campaigns. The Washington Post reports that the council member's driver's license was suspended five times in eight years for his failure to pay traffic citations. He has also been dogged by IRS tax liens and foreclosure notices.

The Examiner's Alan Blinder reported Tuesday that auditors at the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance found that, in addition to the missing funds, Brown's re-election campaign also failed to report $8,446 in donations and $12,329 in expenses. This isn't an incident, it's a disturbing pattern. It reflects either incompetence or sinister motives, either of which should be a deal-breaker for the voters.

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