JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Since receiving a subpoena at a Jacksonville restaurant in January, Congresswoman Corrine Brown has been under the microscope.
So have some of her close associates, including Carla Wiley -- the head of a purported Virginia based charity. Wiley pleaded guilty earlier this month to defrauding donors by using the power of a public official. That official is unnamed in court papers, but the facts presented point to Corrine Brown.
Now, the focus is on longtime Brown staffer Von Alexander. In a story that will appear Sunday, our news partner, the Florida Times-Union reports that in addition to working as Corrine Brown’s community development director, Alexander is a very well compensated subcontractor for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.
It’s against federal law for a congressional employee to hold a job that poses a conflict of interest. But hundreds of public records and emails obtained by the Florida Times-Union show Alexander in a confusing, and seemingly conflicted role.
In one email, presumably on behalf of JTA, Alexander urges Brown to write a letter supporting a $15 million transportation grant for the agency. In another, she reaches out on behalf of Brown to arrange a meeting with JTA’s chief.
Emails to local lawmakers create similar confusion. Within two hours last April, she emailed Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown about a JTA issue, and a solicitation from “Team CB” [Corrine Brown] looking for election related help.
“There’s a question whether this violates federal ethics rules,” notes Steve Patterson, a longtime TU reporter and one of three dedicated to covering developments in the Corrine Brown case. “If you’re working for Congress, you should not then be lobbying Congress.”
He notes that JTA has extensive dealings with Brown because of her seat on the House Transportation Committee. So the fact that her employee is paid by that agency is complicated.
“You have someone who’s being paid as a member of Corrine Brown’s staff who is also being paid by JTA and a big part of that work involves communicating with Corrine Browns’ staff,” observes TU reporter Nate Monroe. “At the end of the day, that’s kind of the arrangement that seems to be – whether it’s a technical violation or not – to be concerning.”
Monroe along with Patterson and Christopher Hong previously reported on Brown’s ties to the bogus charity One Door For Education – a Virginia group that profited from a golf tournament organized with help from JTA and Von Alexander.
Through her attorney Alexander declined comment.
You can read the full investigation in Sunday’s edition of the Florida Times Union, or online at Jacksonville.com.