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Brown fires one of his 'best and brightest'

   The best and brightest.

   That's what Byron W. Brown promised voters he would bring to City Hall if elected mayor.

   The day before his inauguration, he tapped Richard M. Tobe to become his economic development czar in a newly reorganized department that would also oversee permits and inspections. The appointment drew praise in business and government circles.

   Flash ahead 30 months. Brown is forcing Tobe to quit. When pressed for answers, the mayor refused to criticize Tobe's performance, saying the commissioner did "good work."

   But Brown talked in vague terms about wanting to move in a different direction, stating he plans yet another reorganization of a department that he retooled in early 2006. He said he wants the city to be even more aggressive in trying to land new development and create jobs.

   Over the past 16 months, there have been no fewer than five different sets of rumors suggesting that Tobe was on his way out. It became an inside joke when a reporter would show up in his third floor office and ask about the latest rumblings.

   But the rumors become reality on Monday. Brown told Tobe on Friday that he wanted him out. Tobe will stay on the job until Independence Day.

   What happened?

   Until several months ago, Tobe was one of the mayor's closest advisers. But even casual City Hall observers could see that relations had cooled in recent months. Meanwhile, numerous City Hall sources indicated that Tobe's relationship with First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey became strained. The mayor dismissed those claims as "nonsense."

   What do you think spurred Tobe's ouster?

   -- Brian Meyer


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