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Security guard says company suspended him for being gay

DNC investigating allegation against contractor

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Robert Miller

Robert Miller claims that CSI Corporation discriminated against him because he’s gay while working as a security guard at the DNC headquarters. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A guard working for a company that provides security services for the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill says the company suspended him after another guard learned that he’s gay and expressed reluctance to work with him.

Robert Miller, 32, a D.C. resident, says he’s filing a discrimination complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights against CSI Corporation of D.C., a private contracting firm that provides security guards for many prominent buildings in the city, including the DNC headquarters and the Washington Convention Center.

“I’m a gay man and he says he’s uncomfortable working with me,” Miller said of fellow security guard Julius Crumlin.

Crumlin declined to comment when contacted by the Blade. Officials with the Silver Spring, Md., based CSI Corporation did not return repeated calls.

City records show that CSI Corporation of D.C. listed a D.C. address to obtain certification in 2009 as a small, local business enterprise eligible for special preference for D.C. government contracts.

But the management company for the office building that CSI listed for its address at 7600 Georgia Ave., N.W., told the Blade CSI moved out of the first floor office it rented in that building last month.

A spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development couldn’t be immediately reached to determine whether CSI was in violation of its contract preference status by moving out of the city. The DSLBD regulates the city’s small and minority business contracting preference program, which is restricted to companies whose “principal” location is in D.C.

Miller said he and Crumlin had a cordial working relationship for nearly a year and sometimes had dinner together while on break at the DNC building. He said Crumlin became hostile after discovering in a desk drawer at the DNC building a personal letter that Miller said he wrote to his cousin about his romantic feelings toward another man.

Miller says he thinks Crumlin thought the flowery language he used to describe his feelings in the letter were directed at Crumlin.

“He had no business going through my personal things in that desk drawer,” said Miller. “That letter had nothing to do with him, but he took it the wrong way.”

Crumlin responded by writing his own letter to a CSI Corporation supervisor accusing Miller of sexually harassing him on the job, Miller told the Blade. On Aug. 30, the supervisor called Miller to a meeting at CSI’s office in Silver Spring and confronted him with Crumlin’s complaint.

Miller said he tried his best to explain that Crumlin was not the subject of the letter in question. But he said the supervisor and at least one other CSI official told him the company wanted to investigate the matter. Miller said the supervisor, whom he knows only as Mr. Covington, told him to go home that day and to not return to work until contacted by the company.

“They never called,” Miller said. “I kept calling them but they didn’t answer. They didn’t return my calls.”

After three weeks of not knowing his job status and not being paid, Miller said a company official called him and informed him that he was being transferred to another building on an interim basis while the company continued its investigation into the matter.

Miller’s reinstatement came a short time after the Blade began making calls to the company and to the DNC to inquire about Miller’s status and the circumstances that led to his suspension.

DNC spokesperson Melanie Roussell said the DNC didn’t learn about Miller’s suspension until contacted by the Blade.

“The DNC does not exercise authority over or make hiring, firing or suspension decisions regarding any of the security guards working at DNC facilities, as they are employed by an independent contractor,” Roussell said in a statement.

“Nevertheless, we are taking these allegations very seriously and will do everything within our power to investigate this matter to the fullest extent possible, and resolve it accordingly,” she said. “The DNC has an absolutely resolute policy of commitment to diversity among its staff, and recognizes that our continued success requires the highest commitment to obtaining and retaining a diverse staff that provides the best services to supporters and constituents.”

Roussell added that the DNC is an equal opportunity employer that hires a diverse staff without regard to a wide range factors such as race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Miller said he quickly learned that the pay scale at the building to which he was transferred is lower than what it was at the DNC building. According to Miller, he’s now being paid $11 per hour at the Fairchild Building located across South Capitol Street from the DNC headquarters. He had been paid $16 per hour at the DNC building.

Miller gave the Blade a copy of his hand-written responses on an intake questionnaire he obtained from the D.C. Office of Human Rights, which serves as the first step for filing a discrimination complaint against an employer.

A spokesperson for the OHR said the office uses the questionnaire responses — along with an interview with the person making the complaint — as the basis for determining whether grounds exist for a formal complaint, which the office would then investigate.

The spokesperson, Tonya Gonzalez, said the OHR doesn’t publicly disclose or comment on a complaint unless and until the investigation results in a finding of probable cause that discrimination occurred. She said it could take several months before such a determination is made.

Gonzalez said anyone filing a discrimination complaint is free to publicly disclose the fact that they have filed such a complaint, even though the OHR cannot comment on it or acknowledge that it has been filed.

CSI describes itself on its website as “a minority owned firm, certified as a Local Small Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (LSDBE)” with a pending certification from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

City records show that the company listed its headquarters in D.C. in an office at a building at 7600 Georgia Ave., N.W. However, a reporter visiting the office building last week found a vacant office suite with the CSI Corporation name on a locked door. A staff member with Capitol Realty Management Group, which manages the office building, said CSI Corporation had just moved out of the building and the office suite was being listed as being available for rent at $2,100 per month.

Miller said he and other security guards he worked with only had dealings with the company’s Silver Spring office, located on the seventh floor of a building at 1320 Fenwick Lane.

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District of Columbia

White House officials, HHS secretary praise local monkeypox response

D.C. Health points to data showing sharp decline in new cases

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HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra praised D.C. Health’s response to monkeypox.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and two leaders of the White House monkeypox response team joined officials with the D.C. Department of Health on Thursday for a visit to D.C.’s recently opened Monkeypox Vaccine Clinic on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., S.E. in Ward 8.

In a briefing for reporters, who were invited to join Becerra and the White House officials on a tour of the clinic, the D.C. and federal officials pointed to a sharp decline in new monkeypox cases in D.C. as a sign of a successful federal and local government partnership in dramatically boosting the number of people at risk for monkeypox who have been vaccinated.

“I welcome you all to our Ward 8 Monkeypox Vaccine Clinic,” said Dr. Sharon Lewis, Interim Director of the D.C. Department of Health, which is also referred to as D.C. Health.

“Please take note that D.C. Health was very active in initiating back in May” the city’s effort to address monkeypox, she said. “We started our planning and as soon as we were aware of the first case in June, we had actually set up vaccines and were ready to implement our plan.”

Dr. Anil Mangla, the State Epidemiologist for the D.C. Department of Health, told the gathering the number of D.C. monkeypox cases peaked during the week of July 17, and new cases in the District have declined since then by an average of over 20 percent per week.

“I would call it our success story in D.C.,” Mangla said. “So, our cases peaked nine weeks ago, the week of July 17. If you look at the national trends and statistics, the nation essentially peaked about six weeks ago, so we were already three weeks in advance,” he said.

Mangla pointed out that the clinic where the HHS and White House officials visited on Thursday at 3640 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., S.E. and the city’s two other Monkeypox vaccination clinics are walk-in facilities where D.C. residents can go for a vaccination without an appointment. The other two are located at 1900 I St., N.W. and 7530 Georgia Ave., N.W.

Becerra praised Mangla and his boss, Dr. Lewis, and their team of public health officials for aggressively reaching out to those at risk for monkeypox, including gay and bisexual men, to encourage them to get vaccinated and promptly treating those who tested positive for the monkeypox virus.

“So, let me first say to Director Lewis, Dr. Mangla, and to all your team, thank you for being affirmative in bringing in the steps to stop monkeypox,” Becerra said. “And more importantly, to go where the people are rather than waiting for the people to come to you.”

He said D.C. efforts in addressing monkeypox were among the efforts in other cities and states across the country where a joint federal-local partnership was taking place. 

“We need strong partnerships,” he said. “We need your help, because you know the many trusted voices in the communities that you’ve got more of than we would,” he said. “We’ll provide the vaccine,” said Becerra, noting that the Biden administration in partnership with various federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, has distributed more than a million vaccine doses nationally.

Among the White House officials who spoke at the briefing and joined the tour of the Ward 8 Monkeypox Vaccination Clinic was Robert Fenton, who President Biden on Aug. 2 named as White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator. Also speaking was Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, who Biden named as White House National Monkeypox Response Deputy Coordinator.

A statement released by the White House at the time Biden appointed the two men says Fenton has served as Regional Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region 9 in the western part of the U.S. and was considered one of the nation’s most experienced emergency management leaders.

The statement says Daskalakis, a leading public health expert, is currently the Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of HIV Prevention.

“Widely known as a national expert on health issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ communities, his clinical practice has focused on providing care for the underserved LGBTQIA+ communities,” the White House statement says.

In his remarks at the briefing on Thursday, Daskalakis also praised D.C. Health officials and the communities they have reached out to for encouraging behavioral changes among the groups most at risk for monkeypox.

“So, the clear message is that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, transgender individuals, and other gender diverse folks who have sex with men are not only getting the vaccine and testing, but also what they can do in their daily lives to be able to prevent infection,” he said. “I think that is another testament to the work you’ve done and is another example of the great partnership between federal public health and local public health.”

The D.C. Department of Health’s most recent data on monkeypox cases in the city shows that as of Sept. 15, the city had a cumulative total of 488 cases, with 19 hospitalizations and no deaths. Out of the 488 total, 97.3 percent were male, and 1.2 percent were female.

Regarding the sexual orientation of those who make up the 488 cases, 48 percent were listed as gay, 5.7 percent as bisexual, 3.9 percent as straight/heterosexual, 1 percent as “other,” and 41.4 percent as “Unknown.” The data released included an asterisk for the number of lesbian cases, which a footnote says could be four or fewer such cases.

At the briefing on Thursday, the Blade asked Dr. Mangla, the D.C. Health epidemiologist, to explain why he thought the number of D.C. monkeypox cases in gay men and other men who have sex with men were initially listed by D.C. Health officials to be over 90 percent of the total cases. But in recent weeks, the Blade pointed out, the data show the number of “gay” cases were at about 50 percent or a little lower and a new category of “unknown” sexual orientation cases was in the 40 percent to 50 percent range.

Mangla said he thought the discrepancy was due to a flaw in the data gathering during the early stage of the monkeypox outbreak in D.C. that has since been corrected. “It took us a few weeks to make that kind of adjustment and to say we are now confident enough that the data is accurate for policy decisions and anything else,” he said.

He did not say whether he or D.C. Health knows which demographic groups made up the “Unknown” category of 41.4 percent in the most recent data released.

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Maryland

FreeState Justice files lawsuit against former executive director

Jeremy LaMaster allegedly launched ‘coordinated attack’ on organization’s operations

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Former FreeState Justice Executive Director Jeremy LaMaster (Photo courtesy of Jeremy LaMaster)

FreeState Justice on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit against its former executive director who has accused its board of directors of having a “white supremacist culture.”

The lawsuit, which FreeState Justice filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, notes the board on Sept. 16 informed Jeremy LaMaster that “they were relieved of their duties, and the final two weeks of their employment were to be spent cooperating in the transition of FreeState’s operations.”

“LaMaster abruptly left the meeting early and immediately began a coordinated attack on FreeState’s operations; in particular, its IT assets,” reads the lawsuit. “When FreeState discovered LaMaster’s improper interference, it terminated their employment effective immediately, ordered them to cease and desist and to rectify their actions. LaMaster did not abide and continued to hijack and misappropriate FreeState’s IT infrastructure and documents.” 

The lawsuit alleges that LaMaster “unilaterally and without authorization changed user permissions and shared login information so only they had access to numerous systems and accounts.” 

“They also removed employees’ administrative access to numerous systems and accounts, leaving such access to only themself,” reads the lawsuit. “In doing so, LaMaster has left FreeState’s employees with little to no access to client files, case files, dashboard reports,and case notes. LaMaster also changed the password to FreeState’s WordPress account, leaving LaMaster in sole control of FreeState’s website.” 

LaMaster, who uses nonbinary and binary pronouns, in a message they sent from his FreeState Justice email account on Monday announced their resignation after they said the board declined to step down.

“This morning, I requested the FreeState Justice board of directors to submit their immediate resignations due to persistent violations of our board handbook, consistent failures in their fiduciary responsibilities, and using positions of power to engage in partisan lobbying within FreeState Justice and their repeated refusal to add new members and leadership to the board,” wrote LaMaster.

LaMaster in their email noted they “exhausted every avenue over the past two years to get our board fully staffed and running, and I made good faith efforts to work with the board to ensure that our clients and low-income LGBTQ Marylanders remained at our center.” 

“Instead, the board has refused to accept any new board members since 2021 and refused to staff and run core board activities as per our handbook,” wrote LaMaster. “Instead, they have worked to consolidate power and amend the board handbook in secret to lower the minimum number of board members required and ensure that our policy positions prioritize relationships with legislators, not the best interests of our clients and community. I have provided clear warnings and consistent concerns over these issues that were repeatedly ignored.”

“These are the hallmarks of white supremacist culture: The concentration of power, power hoarding, defensiveness, right to comfort, fear of open conflict, hyper-individualism, and a false sense of urgency,” added LaMaster.

FreeState Justice in response to LaMaster’s allegations said it fired them on Sept. 16 “after prolonged and thoughtful deliberation” and further noted their statement “does not reflect the views or ideals of FreeState Justice’s board and staff.” FreeState Justice has named Phillip Westry as LaMaster’s successor.

The lawsuit alleges LaMaster “has commandeered” Westry’s Google account, “rendering him unable to access his emails, internal work calendars, and collaborative documents shared and worked on via Google Drive.” 

“LaMaster also now has unfettered and improper access to employee lists, donor lists, volunteer lists, mailing lists, client lists, and pro bono attorney lists,” reads the lawsuit. 

“Despite FreeState’s insistence that they cease their unlawful activities and restore operations immediately, LaMaster proceeded to upload a defamatory post to FreeState’s website and disseminated it to approximately 43,000 recipients on FreeState’s mailing list, which they accessed without authorization,” it notes. “The post, titled, ‘Whistleblowing: Public Call for the Resignation of the FreeState Board of Directors’ falsely depicts the circumstances surrounding their departure from FreeState by stating that they resigned, without basis alleged that the Board engaged in ethical violations, and likened FreeState’s Board to White Supremacists, claiming they supported white supremacist culture and practices, and were not ‘anti-racist.’ This is false, defamatory, and denigrating of FreeState and its board members, and extraordinarily damaging for a social justice organization.” 

The lawsuit further notes that because “LaMaster did not comply with FreeState’s cease and desist letter, because LaMaster continues to infiltrate FreeState’s systems and accounts, and because LaMaster, after receiving FreeState’s cease and desist letter published a post defaming FreeState, and without authorization, posted it to FreeState’s website, and disseminated it to its mailing list of approximately 43,000 people with his FreeState email address, FreeState has no choice but to seek judicial intervention to prevent further unlawful conduct, and irreparable harm to FreeState.”

“FreeState requests an immediate hearing on this matter,” reads the lawsuit. “It can be reasonably presumed that LaMaster will continue to use FreeState’s proprietary information to interfere with FreeState’s business relations and continue to interfere with FreeState’s possessory interests in its systems and accounts, depriving FreeState personnel of access to the accounts, documents, and files they need to perform their work.”

The Washington Blade has reached out to LaMaster for comment on the lawsuit. 

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Local

Comings & Goings

O’Connor moves from Logo to L’Oréal

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Zachary O'Connor

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

 The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, landed an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Zachary O’Connor on his new position as Director of Global Digital Content & Social, L’Oréal Group. 

“Working at Logo for the past seven years was an incredible opportunity,” O’Connor said. “I was able to make my mark on the historic brand, and help it transition from a TV network to a strong digital brand for the LGBTQ+ community. Queer media’s existence is important, and I wish Team Logo the best of luck as I move on to a new and exciting chapter in my career.” 

O’Connor held a number of roles at Logo over seven years including: Manager of Social Media, Digital, and before that he served as Senior Social Media Coordinator. Prior to that he was with the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials, as Communications and Publications Specialist.  He has received a number of awards and honors, including being nominated as Outstanding Online Journalism – Video or Multimedia, for a GLAAD Media Award; Webby Award for Best Documentary (Single or Series), “Logo’s Meet the Logo Legends: Brooklyn Trans Liberation.” 

O’Connor earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from American University, School of Public Affairs in D.C.  

Congratulations also to Viet Tran on his new position as Press Secretary, Office of Communications, U.S. Office of Personnel Management. On taking the position Tran said, “It’s an honor to serve as a political appointee in the Biden administration. As press secretary for the Office of Personnel Management, I look forward to working with the OPM team to support the agency’s mission and the Biden administration’s commitment to building a federal workforce that reflects the diversity of America.”

Prior to taking this role, Tran held positions at a number of different organizations, including: Senior Consultant, RALLY; Media Relations Director, Dot Movement Digital; Press Secretary, Human Rights Campaign; Media Relations Specialist, DAWN Design Studios; and Communications Manager, Center for the Study of Social Policy. As a volunteer he has served on the Board of Directors, Stonewall Sports; speechwriter and media adviser, AAPIs for Biden, Biden-Harris Campaign; and on the board of directors, Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership. 

Tran earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from UC, San Diego. 

Viet Tran
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