By Erica C. Barnett
The Seattle Human Services Department released the details of former King County Regional Homelessness Authority director Marc Dones’ $250-an-hour contract with the city on Friday. PubliCola reported on the contract, which is widely viewed as a payment in lieu of severance (for which Dones, who resigned, was ineligible), in June. Real Change was first to report on the contract details on Friday. Dones’ contract began on June 20, the first business day after their final day at KCRHA.
Under the contract, Dones (through their company, Gray Sky Consulting) will receive $60,000—the equivalent of three months’ salary—for performing 240 hours of work, including 30 hours determining the scope the work to be performed and creating a timeline for deliverables.
City consulting contracts don’t generally require an exact accounting of hours—see, for example, former deputy mayor Tim Ceis’ own $250-an-hour contract to “build community consensus” on Mayor Bruce Harrell’s preferred light rail station locations—so it’s impossible to say how much actual time Dones will spend delivering on this contract. Coming up with or list of “stakeholders,” for example, is supposed to take the former KCRHA director five hours, and writing a final report accounts for another 60.
The contract says Dones will do a “landscape assessment” of existing programs and come up with recommendations for using Medicaid funds “to maximize the region’s resources available to address homelessness.” As we’ve been reporting since February 2022, Dones planned to use a Medicaid-funded state program called Foundational Community Supports to pay for the downtown Partnership for Zero, an ambitious (and unrealized) plan to eliminate visible homelessness in downtown Seattle by as early as last year. The KCRHA’s adopted 2024 budget assumes$5.2 million from Medicaid reimbursement, an estimate Dones called “conservative.”
Providers who have used Medicaid funding to pay for programs addressing homelessness cautioned that Medicaid reimbursement is almost more trouble than it’s worth, because the use of the federal program is severely limited and documenting units of care, known as “encounters,” has proven extremely difficult. It’s unclear what additional research Dones is expected to provide beyond the work KCRHA did to justify the assumptions about Medicaid reimbursement that informed its 2024 budget.
The contract also includes 30 hours of research on the integration of existing “labor, public health, and violence prevention” programs, including violence prevention research with a “specific focus on the overlap between gang violence and encampments.”