Dear PoP – SUV Scandal

Wilson Building 1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW

“Dear PoP,

I am absolutely livid that we, as DC taxpayers, are paying nearly $100,000 per year to lease four luxury vehicles for Mayor Vincent Gray and Council Chairman Kwame Brown. Why do our elected officials need the most expensive luxury cars available, especially when Washington is facing a $400 million shortfall. (As a point of reference, top-of-the-line Mercedes S-Class sedans only cost $1,300/month to lease, whereas the brain trust’s Lincoln Navigators almost cost $2,000/month….) I was wondering if your other readers are similarly outraged?”

The Washington Post reported:

“Several weeks after Kwame R. Brown was elected D.C. Council chairman in November, city officials were asked to order for him a “fully loaded” Lincoln Navigator L with a DVD entertainment system, power moonroof and polished aluminum wheels.”

I imagine (and certainly hope) most readers are similarly outraged. This is outrageous. And quite frankly embarrassing for our city. What do you think Chairman Brown needs to do to make this right? Zip car or metro for a year?

157 Comment

  • One word: resign. Gray too.

    Welcome to the new era of faux populism. Race-baiting politicians promising to “look out for the little people” get elected and immediately enrich themselves at the expense of the very people that put them in office. Whaddup, Mayor Barry.

    • Exactly,

      The man hadn’t even formally taken office yet and despite months of all this “I’m a working man, looking out fot he working familys of dc” crap, and his half a year of constant Fenty lob bombing about fiscal issues, and his FIRST action as Council Chair to-be is to have the city order him a so he can drive around town like a baller in a rap video. You know this child had been salivating all fall, probably had the car picked out weeks in advance of the election.

      The he lies about the thing, not once, or twice but 3 times in as many days. His last was this morning on Fox 5, claiming he didn’t ask for a Navigator, just an SUV. Then his email from last fall comes to light, and what did he ask for…a NAVIGATOR.

      Then, he gets his precious car and despite the fact that he knows the city is on the hook to pay for the lease, he rejects is, asking for another all the while lecturing us on fiscal conservancy. I mean, you couldn’t make this crap up.

      In a normal world, someone would have already resigned or lost their job over this, but what am I thinking. This is DC where we vote in felons and crack heads, IRS cheats, Campaign Finance reform cheats, non-profit cheats (and those are just the two Browns), and people who are years behind on their DC property taxes.

      Yea DC!

      • This is not just DC, but all of the U.S., increasingly. There is rampant corruption and coziness between the U.S. Gov and Wall Street, and this attitude of entitlement and not taking responsibility is spreading throughout the populace it seems. We just had a huge financial crisis that involved all kinds of fraud, yet there have been no major prosecutions, rather bail outs so bankers can keep taking even bigger bonuses. During the S&L crisis, there were hundreds of prosecutions with top executives going to jail. This time, nothing. Gray is just part of an increasingly Banana Republic styled country.

    • +1 That’s pretty much it.

      Election day: “I’m for you guys.”

      And afterwards: “Shhh. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m actually better than those little chumps. Much better.”

    • Why is everyone hating on American cars? Kwame leased not one but two American built vehicles thereby helping our economy. The man is a patriot!

    • An elected official may be recalled by the registered electors if they collect the signatures of 10% of the registered electors of the ward (for reps of wards) or 10% of each of 5 or more wards of the District if at-large.
      This is a synopsis of DC Code 1-204.112

      Get collecting signatures!

  • completely disgusting.

    the details are worth reading, if you want to get even more pissed off about it. why are we leasing 2 for Kwame Brown? oh, that would be because the first one that we leased for him had a grey interior, not the black interior he had requested. his office claims they wanted a black interior because it “holds its value” better.

    keep in mind – this is a leased vehicle. think about that for a moment.

  • Maybe they plan to give it to him when he’s gone.

    Man, I really hate it when they ask for so much and give back to little.

  • He’ll never resign over this, but shouldn’t we be able to send Kwame Brown the bill/ garnish his wages until DC is reimbursed for the cost of 1 yr lease?

    I know KB isn’t exactly in great personal financial shape, but screw him, he can apply for a loan or be forced into bankruptcy. Either way he shouldn’t just get away with nothing more than a “sorry for the mix up folks!”

    DC gets paid, and a nice precedent is set about trying to milk DC for fringe benefits.

  • I wish I were surprised. And I wish I had voted, because then I’d complain.

    • Go to your room and stay there.


      Actually, go register today…probably as a Dem if you’d like to have an effect on the outcome.

      • Voting doesn’t matter when all your choices are garbage

        • All of our choices were not garbage! Say what you will about Fenty’s personality – he was a man of action and he got things done. He would never had done anything like this.

          • Actually, he did several things like this including giving city contracts to a personal friend who did crap work and went from being bankrupt to a millionaire off the DC resident’s taxes. That friend also made several threats against people in the community and Fenty still supported him. Don’t make Fenty a hero. He’s just as corrupt as any other politician.

  • The man is city council chairman, but in this case, he looks like a neighborhood drug dealer. And given his personal financial indiscretions, we need to keep a close eye on how he runs things. I don’t trust him at all.

  • outraged, yes. shocked, no.

  • It’s crap like this that encourages the tea party crowd.

    • No kidding. It’s making me see the sense in abolishing home rule. DC politicians really CAN’T be trusted to do the right thing.

      • home rule?!!! i have never been for it, if there were home rule DC would be turned into Sudan.

        Kwame should resign and him and others like him should be punished.

  • Why do we pay for their vehicles, anyway? Aren’t they from the city? Can’t they take the metro like so many others?

    • Doesn’t the mayor or NYC take the subway?

      • To be fair, Bloomberg’s SUV entourage drives him from his house to a subway stop so that he can make an appearance on the subway. Bloomberg does waive all but $1 of his salary.

        • and to be fair, i’d be REALLY surprised if bloomberg’s SUV was a fully loaded leased vehicle on the city budget.

    • I’m NOT defending the guy, but saying that he should take Metro isn’t realistic. He should be some of the most mobile people in the city… able to run from one end of the city to the next at the drop of a hat. There is also a security element to him not using public transportation.

      The issue isn’t that he shouldn’t have a car, it’s that he abused his power as an elected official (before he even really started) and then started manipulating the truth… poorly.

  • I don’t care what it costs to terminate the contracts – do it. Then never allow this to happen again. You are DC Council Chairman not the President. DC Gov should give him a budget for cab fare to get to meetings and other official business events ($150/mo?) and he can pay his own way to and from work.
    Perhaps if the clowns on the council had to take public transportation we’d enjoy working escalators, safe trains and a system that works to move around the city.

    • +1

      Frankly though, I’d bet they already had a car and could probably just use their own like the rest of us. I’d even be ok w/ subsidizing some of the car/travel expense, my office subsidizes mine. It’s the egregiousness of a luxury SUV that gets me. Especially in the wake of all his budget cut talks. This should have been one of the first things to go.

  • Its a shame but completely expected from the crooked politicians in this town. They pretend to be “one of the people” and then do selfish stuff like this. Corrupt and shameful. What we need, is a nice batch of republicans to come in and clean this mess up and cut out all unnecessary expenditures.

  • Here is Mayor Gray’s “response” to the SUV scandal. Typical non-answers.

  • This is an important point. Especially if he is claiming to the public that he never would have wanted the vehicle if he knew it was so expensive. Obviously he knew that turning down the first vehicle would only be MORE expensive.

    Personally, I think he should resign right now, but I’m also worried that his actions are indicative of how many DC officials act.

    • Important point was mentioned above regarding the Washington Post article that outlines that the original car was sent back because it did not have the right color interior – so there were two cars leased for Mr. Brown. The article also goes into more detail about the fully loaded necessity.

  • Please remember, everyone, these people only receive the second highest salary in the country for their work on the DC City Council. Six figure salaries don’t even begin to compensate these hard working officials for the service they provide.

    • It’s part time too. They also get paid handsomely on the side by major developers and law firms.

    • Yes, I heard that too. Disgusting. They make more than the Los Angeles city council! They justify it by saying that since the District is both a city and a federal area, that they’re doing twice the work, or some sh-t like that.

      It should start with a big, fat pay cut. Then hand out Metro cards and revoke all the leased chariots. Let ’em get around town like the people they’re supposed to be representing.

      • Yes, except that Congress pays for DC’s judicial system. So maybe, you get 1.5x more responsibility. Does LA pay for private cars?

  • Thank god I don’t live in the District.

  • 2 questions for point of reference:
    1) is it typical, across the US, for city mayors and other top elected officials to have leased vehicles? what the justifications for this?
    2) Did Fenty/Williams/Barry ask for similar arrangements?

    I ask because I don’t know and would like to have better context just for *how* outraged I should be

    • Good questions – the information would certainly help establish a point of reference.

    • I’m curious about this too. A few years ago I saw Fenty park a tiny green smartcar at the fire station in Cleveland Park and then run into the nearby Indian restaurant to pick up some take-out, so I’m inclined to say no, he did not have a tricked-out SUV courtesy of DC taxpayers.

  • Hello Folks, welcome to Third World DC. If we don’t do something now I’ll tell you what is next based on my experience as a foreigner:
    Public officials get expensive not necessary SUVs, next the taxpayers pay for their personal home bills, water, electricity and private school for their children; the taxpayer pays for their “work” trips to Europe where they take their families and friends with them, the taxpayer pays their credit cards. The Tax Payer pays even for their weddings and their new expensive properties. The public official who walked the neighborhoods from door to door when needed the votes, now is isolated on their SUV bubble. While all this is happening, they also hire other corrupt officials to protect them from the media, etc. paying them high salaries and bonuses with what? Tax payer’s money, you guessed it right!.
    Think about it, in order to balance the budget they are quick to cut funds that benefit people who really need them, and then they use that money to lease a more luxurious SUV.
    I never expected to be living in a third world country again.

    • Especially so, given all of these ignorant black and brown types running around. Maybe even the one in the White House, too.

      • Congratulations on skipping the veiled racism and going straight for the real thing.

        • Thanks–I was being Swiftian. There’s too much veiled racism in some of this “outrage.” This “Third World” thing is coded racism. As I said below, Ireland and Iceland would love to have DC’s problems. They clusterf*cked themselves into crisis, yet no one utters the coded “Third World” or big pimpin’ when it comes to them. LOL

  • me

    Here’s the email trail.

    This shows how many people and how many f-ing man hours went into this damn deal.

    • Ha! You got to love the signature line on the e-mail!: “Professionalism: It’s NOT the job you DO, it’s HOW you DO the job.”

      • This was my favorite:

        “I noticed that there are tvs in the headrests and because we didn’t request that, is there a way to send thos back? Please advise.”

        Because TVs in the headrests are just too extravagant.

        Also, anyone catch the fact that they wanted to put one vehicle on a separate contract so the contract didn’t exceed $1M and require approval by the full City Council? Sneaky bastards.

      This email trail makes me want to move to the burbs. I can put up with the muggings and the litter and the tourists and honking…but this?

  • is there any legal precedent for citizens taking action against local government for this type of fund misappropriation?

  • Meanwhile, D.C. government employees are being furloughed for four days this year because of the budget shortfall. Please note that Council Chairman Brown’s salary is $190,000 per year, probably more than enough to cover a car payment.

    • thank you for saying this, as I am one of those individuals furloughed.

      I have written an email to Jim Graham (my council person) asking that this not be overlooked, that they need to address it.

      If everyone could please call/email their council person to share your disgust with this issue.

      I say that K Brown needs to pay back all the money spent and that he should pay for both car leases until they expire.

  • What’s the over-under on how long it takes the PoPetariat to forget all about this? Twelve days?
    For history, see all the pearl-clutching about Jim Graham’s financial scandal involving his chief of staff, and how handily he was re-elected just a year later.

  • Calm down people…

    Base Model Comes With:
    5.4L V8 flex-fuel engine
    Automatic transmission
    Up to 14 cty/20 hwy mpg
    4-wheel drive
    Navigation System
    iPod input
    Satellite radio
    Side/Curtain Airbags
    Stability control
    Third row seats
    Traction control
    DVD player

    MSRP: $57,570

    There’s no way you can get a properly equipped SUV of that size for less than 60k, especially when you’re buying on behalf of a government agency. The money those 2 SUVs cost are water on a budget duck’s back, provided the city didn’t over pay for them. Lincoln Navigators for the president cost well over $300k after they are reinforced against bullets, and once you add run-flat tires. If they paid more, its because DC Gov has bad credit, and therefore got shafted on the loan interest.

    This kind propaganda is brought to you by the same people who hyped “Obama’s 200 Million Dollar Trip To India”. Liars.

    And he does not look like a Drug Dealer (as stated above), that’s a pretty ignorant comment.

    • You are a frickin’ joke.

    • *sarcastic slow clap*

    • Jack Momma:

      I’d say you’re missing the point.

      I can see an argument for any Mayor of a major city to have this type of SUV. I also agree that this 100k+ error is a drop in the budgetary bucket.

      But isn’t the core problem that council members have no business getting this kind of luxury vehicle in the first place?

      Assuming we even agree to provide them with a “company car”, shouldn’t he be provided with the same low-end type of vehicle that other DC gov employees drive around? I mean, House and Senate members don’t get vehicles of any kind!

      • not to mention the arrogance of rejecting the first vehicle since it wasn’t to his exact specification.

      • It’s not really a drop in the budgetary bucket when you think of how many City employees could have received a day’s pay for the holiday for the price of these SUVs.
        And when you add up all of the “drops” in the bucket out there -and there are plenty – you get real money.

      • How can you add 45k worth of options to a car? Install “trumped up sensationalism”, that’s how. LOL.

        OMG!! He chose his own interior?!? Why can’t he be satisfied with that old beater Barry used during his administration?!? This is ridiculous. Poor News, lets talk about how unlawfully issued parking and speed camera tickets from the DC gov make 100k in one week… Now then you’d have something interesting.

        • He is a council member and already makes $190k per year! Yes, I think we can ask him to drive his own vehicle or at the most have a normal city car (maybe a Honda)?

          And people are demonizing civil service employees right now…

  • Still less corrupt than Kwame Kilpatrick amirite?

  • Kwame R. Brown

    Big Pimpin!!!

  • My first act as Mayor will be to eliminate all “company cars”. If the DC taxpayer must pay for me and my colleague’s commute, we’ll issue SmarTrip cards, CaBi memberships and Vespas.

  • This is so typical. Will there be any hearings on this? What about all the DC employees who spent hours procuring this? At no point did anyone stop to wonder if this was a good use of taxpayer money and government workers time?

    How can he say that he never would have wanted the vehicle if he knew it was so expensive? Isn’t it his JOB to ask how much it was going to cost?

    I don’t have a problem with the Mayor having a car and driver due to security but I fail to see why the Chairman of the Council needs a car.

  • I would have sent both of them back. Neither of them had hydraulics or neon lights under it.

  • I actually think its getting better. Ten years ago the voter interest in this would have been null. Now people see the gains DC has made, and won’t let it slip back. Its like when Gray tried to unfund the streetcar. Hipsters/gentrifiers/etc manned up and said “fuck that”…and now gentrifiers/voters/etc are manning up and saying “shit has to change”…thats the silver lining..the cloud is we elected Gray and Brown. Now I didn’t really have a dog in the Fenty/Gray fight…but seeing Brown finances and then elected him only because who would want Orange running the council…jesus we need a better class of politicians.

  • Folks, yes, this is annoying and a misuse of taxpayer money. But let’s not forget that our federal gov’t spent an average of $1.1 BILLION/month during FY10 on “Military Armored Vehicle, Tank, and Tank Component Mfg”. Our country is in serious trouble.

  • POP, Please organize a protest for this corruption. I say we join the world and get these criminals out of our offices!

  • We will have some free time with the Feds not agreeing on the Budget. We gotta do something, Lets make some noise!

  • It’s outrageous. But I find it more outrageous that Gray is paying hefty salaries to supporters and children of supporters at a time he’s cutting back essential services.

    For people talking about moving back to the burbs, as a former reporter who covered some suburban types, lemme tell you it’s not any different out there. But because there are so many of those small municipalities, they don’t get flagged for closer inspection by the media. That’s why the officials of Bell, Calif., got away with it for so long. I remember gnashing my teeth in frustration when I got wind of some corruption going on in a well-to-do town north of my circulation area. Developers were providing fancy furniture for the mayor and council members for some zoning law exemptions and tax breaks. Couldn’t get my editors interested because it wasn’t in our readership area.

  • If nothing else, I made myself a feel better by taunting him on twitter.

    #kwamerequests the tan M&M’s removed from his platter.

  • Recall? Does DC have a recall provision?

  • There has to be a way to change regulations of council members and high ranking city officials so as to prohibit them from receiving any compensation or financial benefit from the city other than their official salary (I think that a leased car would qualify as compensation). I think Kwame should absolutely give back the car(s) and possibly resign, and the city council should slash their own salaries to help with the budget gap, but I doubt it’s going to happen. How about something to prevent this fiasco from happening again? Something in the DC government is obviously broken – either there are no rules prohibiting this kind of thing from happening, or those rules aren’t being enforced.

    • +100. What do we all need to do to really get this to change? I’m sick of the nonsense. I could do their jobs in half the time for half the money. I think we need our own PoP candidate for city council!!

      • Really–you sure you can? Anyone can talk that mess, especially anonymously. Gray is a weenie, but frankly, I don’t think you could do his job unless you ran for it and tried.

        • Wrong. I bet you could establish a set of basic educational/work experience requirements and let anyone who wants to serve put their name in a hat – pick one and we’d be better off.

          Successful campaigning has nothing to do with effective administration – and in fact impedes it by making the process too onerous for most sane competent people who can easily make a good living elsewhere.

        • I’m pretty sure I could. Not that a fiscally conservative white woman would get elected to much of anything. But I’ve decided I’m going to run for my ANC gig since I can’t get my person to ever respond to any of my emails. I’ll start small and let you know when I decide to run for mayor.

  • Sheesh, why can’t they just drive their own cars? I assume they drove before they were elected.

    Or the DC govt. could just offer to subtract the cost of the cars from their incomes. The cars would be back at the dealership the next day.

  • NBA Player Kwame Brown > DC Council Chair Kwame Brown

  • Ugh. You know maybe if Fenty hadn’t quit 4 months before he left office, the mid-level bureaucrats wouldn’t have bungled this transaction. I’m sure those guys were nervous about the new regime, and just wanted to kiss ass with the new leadership. If you read the article, this entire deal was made while Fenty was still Mayor, but Fenty walked off — or perhaps, he jogged off- the job as soon as he lost the primary. This is what happens when nobody minds the shop.

  • Well, it looks like someone is going to take this seriously (not Grey – his comment on WTOP was a joke). Tommy Wells has asked DPW for data. Since he oversees the transportation committee, hopefully something will get done:

  • Leave my man Kwame alone. Y’all thinkin short when y’all need to be thinkin long.

  • Hey, Kwame Brown is a big spender and knows how to spend his and the DC tax payers money. Give Mr. Brown the benefit of the doubt. He is still up to his eyeballs in debt after a personal spending spree, and having a vehicle that meets his needs/likes is a good thing.

    If history to guide us and the council over the next couple of years with Mr. Brown at the wheel, keep a close tap on the city’s checkbook.

  • Fenty must be quite amused.

  • I’ll bet you my Councilman Wells doesn’t say anything about this…just like he didn’t say anything about street cars getting canned the first time either.

    Will Graham be johnny on the spot, like he is at every other city emergency? I guess not.

    Wells is such a weenie.

    • Did you email Wells and press him?? You are a constituent. I email Graham but didn’t receive a response yet.

      To all of you posting on here, write to your City Council member and demand action.

      • I’ll probably hit up his office hours this week. I have to figure out where he moved them. He used to be at Sova on Thursday mornings. Maybe he’s at sidamo now. Anyone else in?

  • I vaguely recall another Kwame Brown failing this city…or maybe that was a dream…

  • Kwame has now offered to pay the lease for both cars out of his own salary as he should – but anyway, Toto, we’re home. Home! And this is my room, and you’re all here. And I’m not gonna leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all, and – oh, Auntie Em – there’s no place like home!

    • Yeah, but Kwame only did it because he got caught. Barry was only good because they took away his toys. The meeting sunshine policy needs to be put in place pronto and Congress needs to fund a complete private city audit to the $1000 expenditure level.

  • Apparently Welles investigation will be on the news tonight:!/tomsherwood/status/40161042109706240

    Tom sherwood
    Council member Tommy Wells begins full investigation of Kwame Brown SUV leases and all other city leased cars. NBC4 at 5pm.
    23 minutes ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

  • Outside of the actual cost, how much staff time across different DC agencies was spent to procure the luxury SUV in time for the inauguration? Reading through the trail of emails is appalling.

    Heaven forbid Kwame show up walking on his own feet, or in a taxicab.

  • I agree with this anger and betrayal (and of Gray’s bizarre complicty). But you all need the can the racially coded “Third World” crap. Ireland and Iceland clusterf*cked themselves into crisis and I don’t hear anyone shouting about pimps and that kind of imagery.

    And indeed there are plenty of new and upcoming leaders–of color–who just have to bust through the wings. Maybe you can help them. Yes, Tommy Wells is one of them. Many more. Fenty was one. Even Obama was an unknown just 3 years ago.

    • one person referenced the third world. chill.

    • Do you really think that there aren’t pimps in Iceland? Have you cruised the northeast side of Reykjavik late on a Saturday night?

    • WTF with Ireland and Iceland? Probably the reason no one is calling them third world in their discussion on this blog is because no on is discussing them on this blog.

  • This was Jim Graham’s response to my email asking him write a bill instructing Mr. Brown to personally pay for the two vehicles.

    Thanks for writing me. Please excuse this manner of replying, but I have bcc’d those who emailed me.

    The public response has been very strong, including a number of highly critical messages from Ward 1.

    The media is now reporting that Kwame Brown is taking steps to return these vehicles. I hope that it possible.

    It should occur without delay.

    Bests Jim

  • I’m Baaack! Kwame is just a younger version of me. Let’s party like it’s 1979!

  • You go to city council with the Navigator you have!

  • So, I have been bothered constantly recently for making a mistake with DC in how I filed a household employee in the forms, so instead of contacting me and having me correct an honest mistake, DC EMployment Services came after me like banshees for a $200 penalty, threatening tax liens, property liens, etc. over an honest mistake!

    I paid the fine, obviously, but I could have done like most people and just paid the person under the table, but I tried doing the right thing.

    MEANWHILE, I watch as our elected officials in DC just continue to do crap like this. Seriously, this city blows sometimes. No wonder the federal government laughs at us.

    Some day soon in the next decade, the number of well-informed and educated people will outnumber the ignoramus population (the one that is kept down in the dumps by their elected officials), and these bozos will get booted.

    I honestly see the whole political situation inDC as less of a racial issue and more of a socio-economic issue. Kwame, Gray, Marion, etc. all prey upon the ignorance and aspirations of the poor, who happen to be largely black, promising them things they never intend to deliver. As the number of self-supportive and affluent individuals move back into DC (white AND black), the likes of Kwame are realizing their time is up soon…. maybe that’s why he’s trying to milk it while he can.

  • I emailed Graham, all the at large CMs, Brown, Gray and DPW yesterday and haven’t gotten any replies. Has anyone else had better luck?

  • Let the people think they govern and they will be governed.
    ~William Penn

  • The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office.
    ~H. L. Mencken

  • Washington D.C. is like Hollywood for ugly people.


  • Agree that there’s a lot of racially coded stuff in these comments, and that it should stop.

    Also, you should take it as a sign of how far we’ve come. Marion Barry famously had two limousines with identical license plates. I think one was just for alibis.

    Anyway, raise your hand if you’re surprised about a city politician abusing the perks of his office? Anyone? Things that surprise me are:

    a) there’s apparently plenty of people inside the DC government who are willing to drop a dime on the City Council chairman, and
    b) the Post’s FOIA requests got done lickety split.

    • I’m not sure how racially “coded” many of the comments are. Most seem to be pretty upfront about the following pretty accurate observations in DC:

      1. There are a lot of poor people in DC
      2. There are a lot of black people in DC
      3. The poor people in DC tend to predominately come from the black population.
      4. The local politicians in DC know 1-3 to be true and play upon the fears of people that “gentrification” will “destroy” their nabes.

      Concurrently, though, the local pols know that the city is slowly becoming more affluent (largely more white), and that some of these people care about things like crime, education, and decent public transportation and are not easily swayed by race-baiting and political hand-waving.

      I really don’t think there is anything racist about the above statements…

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