Ex-Aide's Rise In Curry Camp Was Nearly As Fast As His Fall

P.G. Campaign Quickly Embraced Flood's 'Enthusiasm'

By Robert E. Pierre and Jon Jeter
Washington Post Staff Writers

Sunday, January 15, 1995; Page B01

He was a Johnny-come-lately to Wayne K. Curry's historic campaign to become Prince George's county executive, but he seemed made to order. Brian T. Flood was energetic and bright, a quick study with a can-do attitude and clean-cut looks.

So swift was Flood's rise, so sure his footing in Curry's inner circle of advisers, that no one checked his references before he was named the top spokesman for the newly elected county executive.

On Dec. 2, Flood was handed the keys to the county-owned vehicle that came with his new $68,500-a-year job. According to court records, that was three months after a Fairfax City police officer stopped him on suspicion of drunken driving. Although a breath test indicated he was legally intoxicated, Flood was allowed to plead guilty in November to reckless driving, the records said. He paid a fine and his driving privileges in the state of Virginia were suspended for 30 days, records show.

On Dec. 29, Flood crashed the county car into a stranded motorist and left her fatally injured on a busy, darkened stretch of Landover Road in Cheverly, police said. Authorities charged Flood with driving while intoxicated and five other misdemeanor traffic violations.

Hours later, Curry suspended him, and on Friday Flood was fired.

Flood did not return a reporter's phone calls to his home. His attorney, Leonard Stamm, said that Flood is innocent of any criminal wrongdoing and that alcohol was not a factor in the crash. He said any previous traffic case would be irrelevant in determining whether Flood was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the Dec. 29 accident.

But the incident revealed just how little Curry and his cadre of longtime advisers knew about Flood and how quickly they had welcomed to the center of political power the newcomer who previously worked for two obscure Republican representatives to Congress and a small lobbying group based in Northern Virginia.

Flood, 35, was introduced to the Curry camp only a month before the September primary, yet he managed to join the candidate's innermost circle of advisers in a span of 90 days.

Flood "just came up to me and said he wanted to volunteer on the campaign," said Regina J. McNeill, a county planning commissioner who introduced him to Curry but who said she knows little about Flood.

County officials have not provided a complete resume for Flood because, they said, it is considered part of his private personnel file. According to a brief biography issued when Flood was introduced to reporters as Curry's chief spokesman, the New York native received an undergraduate degree from Fordham University and a master's degree in public administration from the University of Southern California.

He was press secretary for former delegate Ben Blaz (R-Guam) and, from 1989 to 1991, chief of staff for former congressman Craig T. James (R-Fla.).

"He was very bright and a very good employee," James said during a telephone interview from his law office in DeLand, Fla.

Most recently, he was chief executive officer of the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, a lobbying group representing federal prosecutors. The organization failed to return several phone messages left on its office answering machine during the past two weeks.

Since 1989, according to county land records, Flood has lived in Hyattsville with his wife and a young son. James said he last talked to Flood more than a year ago but recalled that he had a "delightful family and delightful little boy."

Flood joined the campaign last summer by volunteering at Curry's Mitchelleville headquarters.

"Anybody who was enthusiastic and energetic was not going to be excluded," said lawyer Elizabeth M. Hewlett, a longtime Curry friend and adviser. "Brian wanted to work, and he was welcomed."

He helped Curry round up support from the county's mayors. After the Sept. 13 primary election, he became a fixture around the Largo law offices that Curry shared with then-campaign manager and friend Greg K. Wells.

After the general election, Nov. 8, Flood was named as one of three transition coordinators. Curry, who has been active in county business and government circles for two decades, made Flood one of his first eight appointees, naming him acting director of the Division of Public Relations on Dec. 14. Of the eight, Flood was the only one who had not previously worked in county government. He was Curry's speech writer and, aside from Curry, the most visible person in the new administration.

Royce Holloway, who is filling in now as Curry's spokesman, said extensive background checks, including polygraph tests, normally are conducted only for the appointment of law enforcement officials. As a general rule, however, references are contacted before all other county employees are hired. In Flood's case, he said, references were not checked because he was classified as a "temporary" employee.

Reference checks would have been done before his status was officially changed to permanent, Holloway said. The position of spokesman is part of the county merit system and must be advertised formally, which had not yet been done. Although Flood had been performing the job of spokesman and receiving a salary since Nov. 14, he would have had to officially apply for the post, Holloway said.

"Brian was loving his job and felt very fortunate to have this opportunity," said lawyer Arthur J. Horne, co-chairman of a Curry advisory panel. "I really appreciated his enthusiasm and genuine and sincere humility to help the county."

Shortly before 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 6, one week before the primary election, Flood was driving east on Lee Highway in Fairfax City when he was pulled over by a police officer, according to the city's District Court records.

A Breathalyzer test indicated that Flood's blood-alcohol level was 0.13, according to court records, well over Virginia's .08 limit for sobriety, and he was charged with driving while intoxicated. The charge against Flood was reduced to reckless driving, and he pleaded guilty, according to the court record. Frank Soulier, an assistant city prosecutor in Fairfax, said that he could not recall Flood's case but that "there must have been some evidentiary consideration that led us to believe that the case would not have resulted in a conviction if it had gone to trial." Typically, prosecutors would not agree to reduce a DWI charge if they were aware of a previous alcohol-related driving offense, Soulier said.

Flood's attorney for that case, Thomas Scanlan, refused to comment about the Virginia charges. Court records show that Flood was fined $1,000 and that a judge suspended his driving privileges in Virginia for 30 days, beginning Nov. 14.

On Thursday, Dec. 29, Flood called in to work to say he was sick. A Washington Post reporter working on an unrelated story spoke to him twice at home by telephone. Flood later told police he went to the office that afternoon. No one in the executive's office recalled seeing him.

Shortly before 10:45 that night, a 12-year-old car driven by Evelyn Manning stalled in the middle, northbound lane of Landover Road. Manning, a 51-year-old custodian at the county courthouse in Upper Marlboro, was on her way to her Bladensburg apartment.

According to one of two witnesses, she was searching for something in the trunk of her car when another vehicle, traveling northbound on Landover Road at a high rate of speed, plowed into her and pinned her between the two vehicles, county police said.

As Manning lay fatally injured, a witness told investigators, the car that struck her quickly went into reverse and then drove off, said a source familiar with the investigation.

The witnesses managed to get the license plate number of a vehicle registered to the Prince George's County government.

Investigators contacted a county clerk at home, and the clerk went to an office in Upper Marlboro. A records check there showed the car was assigned to an official in the county executive's office, but when police went to that employee's home, the car was nowhere to be found, said Capt. James Terracciano, a police spokesman. They contacted the employee by telephone, and she told police that she recently had turned in the keys to the car and that it had been given to Flood, Terracciano said.

When police went to Flood's home in Hyattsville, they found a 1990 Pontiac 6000 in the driveway. The front end was badly damaged, police said. Before contacting Flood inside his home, the investigators summoned an accident reconstructionist. After the reconstructionist examined the car, police knocked on Flood's door, said Terracciano. By that time, it was nearly 5:30 a.m.

Investigators questioned Flood at his home briefly, then asked him to accompany them to police headquarters in Palmer Park. After he provided a statement to detectives, Flood was arrested, and at 8:24 a.m., nearly 10 hours after the accident, he was given a Breathalyzer test.

His blood alcohol level was 0.11, just above the legal limit of 0.10 in Maryland, according to court records.

Flood's attorney, Stamm, has said that Flood did not begin drinking until after the accident, but a bartender at a Landover hotel told county police that he had served alcohol to Flood on the night of the accident, sources said.

A grand jury could decide as early as Tuesday whether to charge Flood with manslaughter.

Staff writer Patricia Davis contributed to this report.

Articles appear as they were originally printed in The Washington Post and may not include subsequent corrections.