Hilarity ensued when Karen Brown and her former accountant – okay, maybe not exactly an accountant, but someone she apparently employed to do accounting work for nine days – took their payment dispute to former New York City Family Court Judge Judith Sheindlin, better known to her approximately 10 million daily viewers around the country as Judge Judy.
The sideshow aligns with Brown’s mantra: If you’re going to do something, no matter how embarrassing to yourself or to others, it might as well be as loud and as public as possible. In fact, the former schoolteacher and failed mayoral candidate is so at home on daytime television, we’re surprised she didn’t end up there sooner. A Jerry Springer-moderated mayoral debate with some chair-throwing, maybe?
As for Judge Judy, the no-nonsense disciplinarian showed open disdain for both London’s hedging and Brown’s interrupting, laying verbal smackdowns on each of them and dismantling their double-talk as they equivocate.
At the end, it turns out the accountant was, for all intents and purposes, a PPA officer-slash-sportswriter who had worked as a campaign treasurer once or twice and Brown seemed to be looking for any excuse to get out of paying him anything for any hours worked. Pretty much a snapshot of Philadelphia politics in a nutshell.
But a summary isn’t enough. Below is a full transcript of the Stuart v. Brown portion of the episode:
As fellow faithful viewers know, the show starts like this:
Announcer: Stuart London is suing his former employer, Karen Brown, for nonpayment of accounting services he provided for her political campaign.
Judge Judy: Mr. London, it is your claim that the defendant owes you for accounting services that you rendered to her in a failed run for mayor of the city of Philadelphia, is that correct?
Karen Brown: Yes, it is.
Oh, man, our name is already dragged into this.
What is your educational background in accounting, sir?
Stuart London: I– background in accounting is – I have a bachelor’s of science degree from Temple University–
So you have a bachelor’s degree.
London: I have a bachelor’s degree, I have done work in congressional, state legislative and political action committees on the accounting side. As a treasurer.
So you have no formal education as an accountant?
London: I am not a CPA, no, ma’am.
That’s not my question. I didn’t ask you if you were a CPA. A CPA passes an exam. I asked you whether you had any formal education as an accountant. The answer is either yes or no.
London: No, ma’am.
She got to the bottom of that one pretty fast.
Do you have a full-time job?
London: Yes, ma’am.
What is your full-time job?
London: It is as a, uh, sports–
Don’t look over there, look here.
London: Okay, sorry. Actually, ma’am, I have two jobs currently. One is for the– as a sportswriter for Calkins Media.
According to Wikipedia, the Levittown-based company owns the Bucks County Courier Times, The Intelligencer out of Doylestown and PhillyBurbs.com, along with three other newspapers and three ABC affiliate television stations in Alabama and Florida.
London: Yes, that is my–
Is that a part-time job, sir, or are you paid piecemeal, or–
London: I am paid hourly.
How much do you get an hour from that job and from whom?
London: I get it from, um–
Don’t look over there, over here!
London: Excuse me. I get paid $18 an hour.
Who else do you work for?
London: In that time, I was working for Calkins Media–
As a writer?
London: As a writer.
An hourly worker.
London: An hourly worker, correct. I was also working for the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Why are we not surprised?
London: The official title is a lot officer.
What does that mean?
London: That means, basically, I give people their cars back after they’ve paid their fines.
A lot manager.
London: Lot manager, yes.
And how much were you earning from the city at that time?
London: It’s actually a quasi-public organization, it’s not the city. It’s, uh–
How much were you earning per hour and from whom?
London: Earning per hour then? $15 an hour, ma’am.
London: Fifteen, yes.
Do you have any other job experience in the past six months that you haven’t told me about?
London: I do not believe so, ma’am.
And, after this show airing, there’s a good chance you won’t have any more for at least another six months.
What about in the past year?
London: I was the treasurer for a congressional campaign.
Name of the person.
London: Brian [censored].
How long did you work for him?
London: Approximately from February to the primary in July, plus his post election report, so, basically, for most of the year 2010.
Were you paid an annual salary, were you volunteering or were you paid by the hour?
London: I was paid a flat fee that we negotiated.
A flat fee of what?
London: $3,000. $1,500 for the first couple reports and $1,500 he also gave me following the primary–
For the year.
Did he pay you the $3,000 for the year?
London: Yes, he did.
So he’s a sportswriter, a PPA officer and, in his free time just, you know, does some accounting for congressional and mayoral campaigns on the side. No biggie.
How long did you work for Miss Brown?
London: I worked for her, approximately, as far as I know–
No, as far as you know–
How long did you work for her?
London: I worked for nine days, apparently.
And how many hours a day did you work for, of the nine days?
London: Of the nine days, I worked a total of 11 hours.
And how many hours – days – of your life have you wasted fighting for payment for the 11 hours you think you apparently worked?
Go. Did she pay you anything?
London: She paid me nothing, your honor.
[To Brown] Did you hire him?
Brown: I did.
Did you have an agreement as to how much you were going to pay him per hour?
Brown: The agreement was that if he was able to do a citywide election, I would pay him and we would– no, there was no agreement–
No! That’s not the way it goes, Miss Brown. You say, “If you want me to hire you, you want this job”– [to London]: Take your hands out of your pockets! – “I’m prepared to hire you,” he says, “This is what I want per hour or for the job.”
Now, right now, right now he has an average hourly wage of about 16 ½ dollars an hour. He’s not earned more than that based upon what he tells me. [To London]: So you were charging her, according to what you have in your complaint, $75 an hour.
London: Yes, ma’am.
That’s quite a raise, Mr. London.
London: Obviously, it’s different kind of work, your honor.
No, it’s obviously quite a raise.
London: It is the rate, uh, I told her very clearly what my fee was.
You have no experience. You’re not an accountant.
London: Judge, I did have experience in this kind of, uh—
No! You didn’t. Giving people back their cars and a sportswriter for $18 an hour, sir, that’s the experience that you had in the last year. But if she agreed to pay you $75 an hour – then she ought to have a good psychiatric exam – but if that’s what she agreed to pay you, that’s what she agreed to pay you. [To Brown]: Now, is that what you agreed to pay him?
Brown: He never specified an amount. He just said he was gonna get paid for his services with everyone else in my campaign was voluntary. I said, “I will pay you a fair amount when you produce the reports.”
I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous in my life, “I’ll pay you a fair amount?” Who’s to determine what’s fair?
Brown: I had no proof that he had done any accounting work.
Then what did you hire him for?
Prepare for an epic face-off of interruptions.
Brown: Because I needed an accountant and someone had told me that he–
So why didn’t you go out in the street and yell, “Anybody wanna be my accountant?” I mean, that has about as much validity as hiring him–
Brown: The gentleman who he did–
Sportswriter, he parks–
Brown: The gentleman who–
Dishes out cars.
Brown: Your honor, the gentleman who he did the congressional account with, I knew him. And he said that he was a good accountant for him, he had done filings.
Don’t tell me what he said, that’s hearsay.
Brown: Well, I went on by word of mouth of someone else who had used him before and they said that he was an accountant for them and he did well for them. And I needed an accountant–
Did he tell you – he [points to London] tell you that he was an accountant?
What did he say?
Brown: He said that, “I have done accounts before for candidates”–
That’s not being an accountant. He said, “I have done accounts.”
Brown: He said that he was accountant. I asked him, “Have you done accounting for city accounts? Are you familiar with SmartClient? Are you a CPA?” He said, “I am a qualified treasurer, I have done many accounts.”
Then he never said he was an accountant. He said, “I’m a qualified treasurer.” Even I could be a treasurer and I can’t add two and two. Somebody’s dumb enough to hire me?
No, I don’t believe you, Miss Brown. I don’t believe you. Evidently, neither did the voters in Philadelphia, but I certainly don’t believe you, that you didn’t have an agreement with him, an hourly agreement with him with regard to how much he was going to get paid.
Brown: I wouldn’t give an agreement to someone who I haven’t seen produce the work. I wanted to see him produce the– we would literally–
That’s not the way things are done!
Brown: That’s the way things are done. My campaign was totally volunteer. He was the first person–
Maybe you should’ve asked him if he wanted to be your volunteer.
Brown: I did. He said he wanted to get paid. And I said to him, “When you– when I see what the report that you produce”– because I have never done– first time I had ever run. “When I see what you do and then we will discuss it. I’ll give you what you think is fair.” I told him I would give him what he thought was fair.
She seems pleased she’s finally come up with an explanation for their arrangement. It only took her, oh, 13, answers.
[To London] What do you think is fair?
No, you wanna know something? I don’t think that’s fair. Because, clearly, she wasn’t satisfied with the reports that you handed in, Mr. London, so–
Brown: Can I show you what he did?
Just a second! So, I don’t think – first of all, I think that if you said to her $75 an hour, that was a soaking and I don’t think you’re entitled to $75 an hour because you’re not an accountant. Let’s say you were paid at the top hourly rate that you were paid for the last six months, which was $18 an hour.
[To Brown]: And you haven’t paid him anything – clearly, you have to pay him something, even if you didn’t like the work that he did for you. But his hourly wage at that time – his top hourly wage – was $18 an hour. [To London]: And, according to you – I take you at your word, sir – you worked for her for 11 hours. Is that right?
She takes the word of a PPA officer-sportswriter-admittedly-fake-accountant over that of a former mayoral candidate for the fifth largest city in the U.S. That’s heavy.
London: Mmm hmm.
That would be $198. Not $825. That’s your top salary for the last six months.
Brown: Your honor, he had– he also told the gentleman who he ran for congressional office that he was a CPA–
Don’t tell me what he told somebody else, madam. That’s hearsay.
Brown: But he told, in my presence–
Well, let’s ask him–
Brown: The meeting we had–
Brown: When they introduced me to him, he told me that he went to school for a CPA. He just didn’t take his test, but he wasn’t–
Brown just argued herself right out of a chance of a more favorable settlement by giving everyone a huge headache.
Whatever, I’m paying him the same thing you would pay somebody that parks your car, $18 an hour.
London: Uh, I just–
Brown: But he’s not even qualified for that. I’ll show you why. Because I have–
I’m not interested in why. He worked, you don’t like the quality of his work, that’s your problem. You should’ve–
Brown: He didn’t do the report, though, your honor.
Just a second.
Brown: He never, the report he did–
I want to see Mr.–
Brown: I’ll show it to you–
Stop talking, Miss Brown. I want to see, Mr. London, what you submitted to her.
London: Yes, uh–
I just want to see the work you submitted to her.
London: The work I submitted to her.
Good, bad, indifferent, I don’t actually care.
It’s not the reason you lost the election, Miss Brown. Now, do you have the report that you submitted to her, or not?
London: I do not have the report that I personally did. I apologize.
[To Brown]: Do you have the report that he submitted to you?
Brown: I do have it.
I’d like to see it.
London: While we’re waiting, your honor, can I just make one point? That when we had our first meeting, I did make it very clear to Miss Brown and her associates that my rate was $75.
I don’t care. I don’t believe it, and if you did, you have some nerve. If you said, “My rate is $75 an hour,” then you misrepresented your qualifications, sir.
Brown: Your honor–
You can’t have it both ways. If you say that you had an agreement for $75 an hour, nobody, not even Miss Brown, would have paid you without some assurance as to what your qualifications were. Not as a sportswriter, not as a car person, but as an accountant.
On the other hand, if you say, “The only experience I had was working last year on somebody else’s failed election campaign, but I want $75 an hour,” that I don’t buy. $198 judgment for the plaintiff. That’s all.
At the end, when they interview both contestants, of course each had more to say. Brown brimmed with self-righteous anger, while London maintained the bewilderment he seemed to show through the entire trial. It’s okay, buddy. We feel the same way.
Brown: If she would’ve given me a chance to speak, I could’ve showed her should have been filed and what he filed. Two different things.
London: The people in charge of the elections had no problem with the filings.
Brown: He didn’t know what he was doing and he did not file the account. I had to get another accountant to rectify what he did.
London: There were no problems with that filing, so I thought I did a decent enough job at least to get paid for the hours I put in.
Brown: I let him go. I let him understand that he did not do the filing and I could not pay him for something he didn’t do.
London: I heard from a friend who had recommended her to me said, “I ran into her, she said you don’t have the computer software, she’s going to get somebody else.”
Note: That person is not your friend, Stuart. And, while we see where you’re coming from, you sound kind of like a 13-year-old girl.
Brown: I’m going to make sure they’re a CPA. I wanna see their license.
London: I’m just gonna have to be a little more careful, I guess.