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Kwame Brown: The Aftermath

Barrington M. Salmon | , WI Staff Writer | 6/15/2012, 11:09 a.m.

In the days since former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown was forced to step down after pleading guilty to financial and campaign-related improprieties, council members who've been left behind are eager to put the sordid affair behind them.

Brown's abrupt resignation and his unexpected fall from grace has thrown the council into disarray and created a leadership crisis. His absence has ignited a frenzy of politicking, deal-making and the shuffling and reconfiguration of the legislative body.

Members have been meeting behind closed doors to plot the way forward, and on Wednesday were scheduled to meet, confer and choose an interim council chairman. That person would serve until D.C. voters choose a new chairman in November.

At press time, Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) was the odds-on favorite to assume the role of acting chairman. He has the support of the majority of his colleagues and is regarded as a calming influence, an experienced hand and the voice of reason on the body.

"All of this is very disappointing," said Mendelson of the scandal that broke down Brown. "I take no pleasure in any of this."

Mendelson, 59, said during an interview Tuesday that while he has talked to his colleagues and is optimistic, he doesn't like to comment on issues that have yet to be settled.

"We won't know until tomorrow," he intoned.

But if chosen, Mendelson said, he would seek to inject stability and cordiality to the discordant and fractious body.

"My appointment would be to be as collaborative as possible," he said. "I would work closely with members and do business as best as I could."

Mendelson, who was first elected to the council in 1998, acknowledges the spate of squabbling and nastiness that has consumed the council over the past 18 months or so.

"We have been less collaborative [and that's because] it's kind of a top-down style from the chairman down. That needs to change," he said.

Mendelson said he plans to run for council chairman and finish out Brown's term which ends in 2014.

But even the process of choosing Brown's replacement has left Chuck Thies, a local communications expert and political consultant, shaking his head.

"Look at the process of making Mendelson the interim chairman - it's a done deal. It was done behind closed doors," said Thies, who moderates the program DC Politics every Thursday on WPFW, 89.3 FM. "There should have been a debate about it on TV."

Thies, 47, said the scandals and ethical problems that currently envelope the council and Mayor Vincent C. Gray are the worst he's seen.

"Things are terrible. If we're not at one of the lowest points, we're equal to or at an all-time low," said Thies, a New Jersey native who has lived in the District for 20 years. We have two rising political stars forced out, two close aides of the mayor who have pled guilty [to illegal campaign activities], [members of] the council fighting like cats and dogs in public and behind closed doors - none of this is going away."