Board Overseeing Federal Homelessness Funds Erupts Into Shouts Over Nomination of Sex Offender

By Erica C. Barnett

The King County Regional Homelessness Authority has asked a member of its Continuum of Care board to step down after she yelled at a fellow board member who objected to the appointment of a proposed new board member, pointing out that he is a registered sex offender and accusing him of behaving inappropriately toward her in the past.

In an email to KCRHA staff and board members last Thursday, KCRHA chief program officer Peter Lynn said he was formally asking the board co-chair, Shanéé Colston, to resign after she “shouted down committee member Kristina Sawyckyj for identifying that one of the prospective AC nominees was a registered sex offender, which is public information. Ms. Sawyckyj was also shouted down by Chair Colston when she spoke of her experience being inappropriately touched by the nominee.”

The continuum of care board plays an important role in securing homelessness funds from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. It reviews and approves applications for federal funding, oversees annual funding renewal requests and performance metrics for homeless service providers, and creates a prioritization tool to judge funding applications.

During a flurry of overlapping shouts, another board member interjected that she had had “nothing but good experiences with [the nominee]” and told Sawyckvj she should contact the police, which Sawyckvj said she had. Sawyckyj went silent, and eventually left the meeting.

The argument began a little more than 45 minutes into the meeting (viewable on the board’s website, which contains a trigger warning for the meeting), when board member Kristina Sawyckyj objected to the appointment of a man who has been convicted for multiple sex offenses involving teenage girls.

In 2010, when he was 25, he was convicted of harboring a minor, a 13-year-old runaway with whom he had a sexual relationship, according to court records. Two years later, the nominee was charged with raping a minor in a case involving a 15-year-old girl; he ultimately pled guilty to communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, a felony sex crime. In 2018, Seattle police found him living in a tent near the Seattle waterfront with a 17-year-old girl, whose mother picked her up and took her home, according to Seattle court records.

Also on the agenda at the delayed meeting: An update to the charter for the Continuum of Care Board, which the board has proposed amending to specify that all 19 members must have lived experience of homelessness or housing instability.

“[He] is a sex offender, a repeat sex offender, and I have had [a] bad experience with him,” Sawyckyj said, adding that the nominee had “touched me” inappropriately in the past.

At that point, Colston cut her off, yelling, “we don’t do that here” and saying it was against board rules to “out” someone who was convicted of a sex crime. During a flurry of overlapping comments, another board member interjected that she had had “nothing but good experiences with [the nominee]” and told Sawyckvj she should contact the police, which Sawyckvj said she had.

Sawyckyj went silent, then left the meeting, while Colston continued. “I’m telling you that you cannot talk like that in this meeting. I will not have that here!” Colston said. “If anyone wants to talk like that you will be muted and removed from this meeting,” she said. “This is about equity. And everyone—everyone— deserves housing. I don’t care if they’re a sex offender! … This is an inclusive space, and we are equitable to all.”

The new board members were supposed to be confirmed during a special meeting last Friday, but the KCRHA canceled the meeting on Thursday. “This unacceptable behavior by leadership of the CoC Advisory Committee has created a hostile environment for KCRHA staff and committee members,” Lynn wrote in his email. “I will be working with KCRHA leadership and our attorneys to determine the next steps to ensure the safety of all those involved in the [board].

Also on the agenda at the delayed meeting: An update to the charter for the Continuum of Care Board, which the board has proposed amending to specify that all 19 members must have lived experience of homelessness or housing instability. The board, which is required by federal policy, predates the KCRHA. In its pre-KCRHA iterations, the board included elected officials, homeless and human service providers, and government staff, in addition to people with direct experience of homelessness.

68 thoughts on “Board Overseeing Federal Homelessness Funds Erupts Into Shouts Over Nomination of Sex Offender”

  1. This is why ppl will vote republican over democrat next term. And its a shame bc its such a no brainer to not have ped ohs on government boards. By all means house them so they arent homeless but this is so incoherent it boggles the mind. Why are we silencing and shouting down women who have been assaulted in 2023? It used to be republicans doing this and now liberals do it too.

  2. This is why ppl will vote republican over democrat next term. And its a shame bc its such a no brainer to not have pedos on government boards. By all means house them so they arent homeless but this is so incoherent it boggles the mind

  3. Who was the board member who backed up Shanéé Colston’s bullying by saying she’d had “nothing but good experiences with [the sex-offender nominee]” and who sneeringly told Sawyckvj that she should contact the police?

  4. Why is it that all nominees did not list their affiliations with the LEC? Is it because if the public were aware that the LEC was paying it’s leadership members to sit on these boards it would potentially be a conflict of interest? Because it wouldn’t. The LEC is the largest fiscally-sponsored sub-agency in the state for a reason: If it incorporated, it would have to post its annual financial reports publically. Seeing as it’s paying its members $36/hr to attend meetings and sit on boards, and didn’t even bother to keep a spreadsheet to keep track of its hotel spending, I am pretty sure that transparency is not the LECs priority to say the least.

  5. Shanee Colston here… no one asked any Board memebers that I am aware of for their recall and accuracy of the intentions and impact this last public meeting has has had on all parties involved. There is way more going on then what us being mentioned or written here in and outside of this public meeting. So let’s have a real transparent conversation so that all persons can be heard, seen and informed from all perspectives. And first and foremost lets ask for understanding and clarification before we assume.

    1. Please. A real transparent conversation? The LEC doesn’t know how to do that. I invited the LEC to have a real transparent conversation for over a year, and when they finally came they came hours late and had no capacity to listen.

      Speaking of transparency, why aren’t any of the board nominees required to share their affiliation with the LEC? And why are board members allowed to be paid by the LEC while they serve? This is a conflict of interest, especially when the LEC holds so many board positions.

      It’s ironic that a member of the LEC leadership team would ask for transparency when the LEC continues to choose to be a fiscally sponsored sub agency over a charitable nonprofit, specifically so it does not have to face public scrutiny or be liable for its annual financial reporting.

      But honestly this isn’t about transparency – a member of the board that you co-chair shared a very serious concern about working directly with an LEC-paid board nominee that had just been voted onto the board, and you decided to shame her, publically and loudly, arguing a point that was completely unrelated to the circumstance, all the while being very possessive in your language about your role.

      Just a quick education session, since the LEC has no board of directors: Co-chairs have no formal authority to direct the board or it’s affairs – like any other board member they are entitled to make motions and vote on matters, but they have no additional power. You are not special; it’s not “your board” as you repeatedly stated.

      The primary responsibility of a board co-chair is first and foremost to ensure the effective functioning of the board and its role of governance. All other duties are secondary.

      Based on what I saw during that meeting, you are failing to do your job. Not only did you shout someone down that had a concern that you were directly responsible for addressing, but at one point in the meeting someone complained about the board being ineffective and non-functional.

      This is a board that oversees millions of dollars of federal funding. You gotta go, Shanee. This board isn’t about you. It’s about the people you were supposed to be serving (not the LEC!).

    2. I can’t help but laugh when I hear an LEC member say “Let’s ask for understanding and clarification before we assume.”

      Shanee, you literally shamed a fellow board member publically to the point that she left the meeting because you assumed she was saying Raven doesn’t deserve housing. That’s kinda the reason you’re in trouble. And why is the LEC conspiring to delegitimize Peter Lynn as CFO if you weren’t asked to step down? I think that’s what you’re disputing – your message is near incomprehensible.

      You seem to have thought you had some additional power over other board members, as indicated by you screaming “I will not have that” and “my board” over and over. I know the LEC doesn’t have a board (if it did, the LEC would be owned by the community it serves, which would be too in alignment with its community guidelines to make sense for the LEC to do), so I’ll break this down for you: As co-chair, you have no additional authority. You aren’t Judge Judy, you’re a facilitator. You have one additional responsibility, and that is to ensure the effective functioning of the board in its role of governing. All other duties are secondary.

      You were driving to work at the beginning of the meeting, the board had to wait for you to settle in before it could get to agenda items, your aforementioned rant made a voting member leave, and two members were already abstaining from voting. And that’s what I took away from just one meeting. Doesn’t sound like a very effective or functioning board. In fact, at the end of the meeting, one of the board members expressed her frustration that nothing was getting done there.

      So there is nothing we need to know aside from what’s in this article, Shanee. There is no reason to have an additional discussion. This board is responsible for $80+ Million in HUD funding. Ya gotta go.

    3. You, Shawnee, are not interested in hearing all perspectives. A woman on your board was personally touched inappropriately by a registered sex offender…her life experience…and you had a complete, childish meltdown. You were not voting to determine who deserves housing. You were voting on who is qualified for a board position, to work as a team, on a complicated situation. You are straight up a bully. You are not interested in hearing any other perspectives that differ from your own. The way the others cowed to your tantrum suggests that you are a dangerous bully. This position requires reasonable, intelligent, responsible adults. YOU are not qualified.

    4. You didn’t leave much to assume after you started screaming at the board member. Don’t shirk this one. That’s weak. You lost your temper and your composure. It’s fine. We all do. What I think is being lost in the focus over your apopleptic outburst is that you lumped First Nations, LGBTQI2S people, et al. with sex offenders. As a someone who identifies as a QPOC, I find that incredibly offensive that you would find parity between something intrinsic and something that’s obviously a choice, a la being a child rapist, kidnapper and multi-time sex offender. I don’t believe for a second that there aren’t any other, better candidates for this than Thomas, aka Raven. I hope you take time to reflect on the harm that your words and behavior has the potential to do to a lot of different populations. Also, I hope that you apologized to the board member as you were out of line. Not her.

    5. I’m a former CoC board member and a long time housing and homeless advocate and am not confident at all that learning what “more is going on” will convince me that a repeatedly convicted sex offender is appropriate for any public leadership role at this time. Furthermore I find it upsetting that you are willing to go to bat for him and not for the girls he assaulted or for the fellow member of the board he touched inappropriately. You loudly and angrily (and deliberately?) confused the issue – does he have a right to due process? Yes. A right to housing? Sure. Neither of those were on the table here. He doesn’t have a right to represent the CoC. And women do deserve protection from people like him.

  6. A major problem that has evolved in the process of the formation and structuring the KCRHA committees is the virtual stranglehold that the LEC has on this important organization that determines the course of all funding for homelessness in our county. Most, if not all, of the LEC members are paid for their membership, receiving substantial stipends for attending meetings and participating in organization activities (I was a member for 2 years).
    Being on the payroll of the LEC creates a dangerous conflict of interest because these individuals are beholden to this organization’s leadership. This conflict makes it impossible for any LEC member who participates in KCRHA decisions to act impartially and conscientiously. The LEC strategy has been to rest control of the KCRHA from Marc Dones to their own leadership.

  7. That board needs to have elected officials on it and sex offenders should be banned from board positions. Sex offenders should not be allowed to make decisions and rules about homeless housing.

  8. The story says the fireworks took place at the 45th minute, yet the video ends just before the 45th minute….is someone censuring public records????

    1. You have to let the first video lapse and it will automatically start playing the second one. So kinda?

    1. I’m assuming you aren’t in good standing with the LEC anymore – they run the show and continue to only place people on RHA boards that are affiliated with them. (I applied too)

      1. Yup, I received my rejection notice a few days after I notified the LEC that I was taking a step back until they consolidated their feces…

  9. I get that public meetings are a matter of public record, but did you ask permission from the board member who said that they had been assaulted before publishing their name in this article?

      1. My question seems to have gone over your head. I wasn’t suggesting that including the name of the victim wasn’t legal; I’m saying that without their consent, it wasn’t ethical. Based on your other comments on this article, I’m guessing you don’t think much about ethics.

  10. Wow. Just wow. So many of the organizations associated with KCRHA are just freaking clueless. KCHRA and these subsidiaries exist because of the largess of the taxpayers. It’s good to read, that for once, KCHRA leadership stepped up in demanding someone GTFO.

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