Several potential candidates for the Ward 4 D.C. Council seat that will soon be vacated by Mayor-elect Adrian Fenty have been out and about and making no secret about their plans to kick off formal campaigns after Fenty is sworn in next week.

Despite the official designation of their campaigns as exploratory, no one believes the press conferences, community events and glad handing is really “testing the waters,” as described in the D.C. Code definitions of the proper role of an exploratory committee.

But one Ward 4 hopeful thinks Michael A. Brown has gone just a bit too far with stretching the exploratory rules. Lobbyist and likely Ward 4 Council candidate Douglass Sloan sent a Dec. 12 letter to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance complaining about the proliferation of red-white-and-blue Brown yard signs and banners.

His description of the signs in the letter is pretty accurate: “Although the yard signs contain a statement in fine print referencing Mr. Brown’s exploratory committee, this language is legible only upon close inspection. More importantly, these signs clearly have the ‘look and feel’ of traditional campaign yard signs, a classic, and hallmark activity associated with political campaigns.” Sloan, who requests an investigation of Brown’s noncampaign activities, argues that his signs “clearly exceed the parameters of acceptable ‘testing the waters’ activity as defined in OCF regulations.”

The OCF’s general counsel, Kathy Williams, plans to respond to Sloan today.

But one leading political figure in town has already decided that Brown is a candidate in good standing. The home belonging to soon-to-depart Council Chairman Linda Cropp, at the corner of Shepherd and 18th Streets NW, sports two Brown for Ward 4 signs (pictured). That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering Brown backed Cropp for mayor after dropping out of the mayoral race himself.

Cropp did not return calls seeking comment on her early support for Brown.