Gay former D.C. police officer Salah Czapary, who’s running in the city’s June 21 Democratic primary for the Ward 1 D.C. Council seat, and gay D.C. school board member Zachary Parker, who’s running in the primary for the Ward 5 Council seat, told viewers of a virtual May 4 LGBTQ candidates forum that they hope to bring back direct LGBTQ representation on the Council.
Czapary was among the three Democratic Ward 1 Council candidates, including incumbent Council member Brianne Nadeau and fellow challenger Sabel Harris, who participated in one of two forums Wednesday night organized by Capital Stonewall Democrats, the city’s largest local LGBTQ political group.
Parker was one of four of the seven candidates running in the hotly contested Ward 5 Council race that participated in the second of the two forms held by Stonewall on Wednesday evening. The others who participated were Gordon Fletcher, Faith Gibson Hubbard, and Vincent Orange, a former Ward 5 and at-large D.C. Council member.
The Ward 5 candidates who didn’t participate were Kathy Henderson, Art Lloyd, and Gary Johnson. Capital Stonewall Democrats didn’t provide a reason for their absence.
Similar to their fellow candidates, Czapary and Parker pledged to address the needs of all of the diverse residents of their respective wards, especially those they referred to as underserved and underrepresented.
“Despite D.C. being a city with the highest count of LGBTQ individuals per capita than any other city, we currently don’t have representation on the Council,” Parker said at the Ward 5 forum. “And I’m hoping my candidacy this cycle changes that.”
Czapary said if elected he would aggressively address issues of concern to all Ward 1 residents, especially LBTQ residents, with a special outreach to the trans community.
“Washington, D.C. has a thriving LGBTQ community,” he said. “But far too many of our LGBTQ residents are not able to access healthcare, housing or employment,” he added. “I promise to be a tireless, present and accessible and available Council member, an advocate for our community and all communities.”
Nadeau, the Ward 1 incumbent running for her third term on the Council, pointed to her longstanding record of support for LGBTQ issues. Although she didn’t say so directly, she acknowledged that she began her first term in office in January 2015 after defeating then openly gay Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham in the 2014 Democratic primary.
“When I first became a Council member, I knew that I was taking over a very special role in the community,” she told the Stonewall Democrats forum. “Not only because I was succeeding an openly gay Council member but also because of the depth and breadth of the involvement of our LGBTQ community in Ward 1.”
Added Nadeau, “I take that responsibility very seriously. And as a result, since day one walking in the door I knew that I could be an ally and work on the issues our LGBTQ community faces.”
Graham, who won election to the Council in 1998 after years of AIDS related service work as executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, became the subject of criticism for ethics related issues after the Council voted to reprimand him in 2014 for allegedly pushing for a developer to win a city lottery contract. Graham denied he did anything illegal and said his aim was to bring development to Ward 1.
The fallout related to what critics, including the Washington Post editorial board, called an ethics “scandal” has been credited with leading to Graham’s defeat by Nadeau, who won the 2014 primary by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent for Graham.
Harris, a Ward 1 ANC commissioner representing the 14th and U Street, N.W. area, also pledged to be a strong LGBTQ ally, saying she is running for the Council seat, among other things, “to help uplift those who have been forgotten.”
Ashley Smith, president of D.C.’s Capital Pride Alliance who served as moderator of both the Ward 1 and Ward 5 forums, asked the candidates a series of questions on topics both LGBTQ specific and political in nature, including whether the candidates support expanding the size of the D.C. Council and how they would address income disparity among all city residents.
The LGBTQ related topics included how the city should address problems faced by LGBTQ seniors, which city agencies can best partner with LGBTQ service organizations, how best to address growing instances of violence faced by transgender women of color, whether the city’s public school system should remain under the full control of the mayor, and how best to address a growing problem of homeless LGBTQ youth.
Each of the candidates participating in the forums for both Ward 1 and 5 responded to the questions by expressing strong support for the LGBTQ community and outlining plans to address problems faced by LGBTQ people.
During his closing statement in the Ward 5 forum, Orange, who said the chairman of his own campaign is gay, became the only candidate at the forum to criticize a fellow candidate when he implied that Parker failed to adequately address problems faced by LGBTQ youth during his years on the D.C. State Board of Education.
“I heard Mr. Parker say I’m openly gay and I’m espousing to help,” Orange said. “But he’s been an elected official for almost four years and all the things we’ve talked about tonight, he could have helped those young kids,” said Orange. “But so just because becoming openly gay a couple of months ago seems to be a matter of convenience,” Orange said in referring to Parker’s public announcement earlier this year that he’s gay.
Parker, who along with Czapary, has been endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, the national group that provides financial support for out LGBTQ candidates for public office, did not respond to Orange by name when he delivered his own closing remarks. But he may have been referring to Orange when he said, “And it’s worth noting that violence comes in many forms, and we’ve seen that here tonight.”
Added Parker, “What is at stake in this race is how we’re going to move forward as a ward and as a community. And it’s not just about vision, although I’ve provided that,” he said. “It’s not just about community connection, and I have that. But it’s also about a Council member that’s going to lead us ethically and honorably at all times.”
Parker was likely referring to Orange’s decision to resign from his at-large seat on the D.C. Council in August 2016 in the midst of an ethics controversy, shortly after he lost his re-election bid in the Democratic primary to Robert White and just under five months before his term on the Council was to end in January 2017. The controversy surfaced over Orange’s decision to accept a job as president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce while still a sitting member of the Council.
His Council colleagues expressed strong objections to his holding the two positions, saying it presented a conflict of interest.
A video recording of the Capital Stonewall Democrats Ward 1 and Ward 5 candidate forums can be accessed here.
A Washington Blade transcript of the opening statements of the candidates that participating in Capital Stonewall Democrats Wards 1 & 5 forums can be viewed below:
Ward 1 Candidates – Opening Statements
Thank you. Good evening and thank you for having me. My name is Salah Czapary and I’m a candidate to represent Ward 1 on the D.C. Council. I’m a proud gay man. And while D.C. is ranked as one of the most accepting states for general acceptance of our community, the work of advancing LGBTQ rights is not over. The rights we enjoy are fragile and must be reinforced. We’re seeing even this week with the draft opinion from the Supreme Court indicating a vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
We all know someone who came to D.C. because their family rejected them, their community rejected them. We are seeing more and more assaults on LGBTQ rights across the nation. And it is imperative that D.C. remain a safe haven for the community. To do that we have to make intentional long term stable housing for LGBTQ youth and in particular trans youth that is connected with case management and mental health services. We know that LGBTQ youth are much more likely to become unhoused and in need of needing those services.
The increasing use of PrEP has helped lower the HIV infection rate in our city. But knowledge about PrEP and access to medication remains uneven. Too many people do not know that PrEP is effective or even that it exists. Moreover, many lack the means to afford monthly prescriptions. Black LGBTQ+ individuals are also disproportionately infected with HIV and less likely to have access to PrEP and adequate healthcare. When elected, I will work to bridge the gap and ensure all of our LGBTQ+ populations have access to preventative medication. I’ll fight to raise awareness about HIV prevention and ensure affordable access to lifesaving medications.
As we work to reduce infections, we must also address the long-term effects of HIV. Many LGBTQ people infected during the 1980s and 1990s AIDS crisis live with debilitating illness. And I will ensure that we invest in medical and mental health care for all surviving with HIV.
Finally, LGBTQ+ seniors helped build the community we now enjoy. And yes, there is still more work to do. But we have to ensure that D.C. is senior friendly and provides programming and support to a population that worked so hard to make our city uniquely D.C. Thank you.
Thank you so much. I am Brianne Nadeau. I am the Ward 1 Council member. And I’m so happy to be here with you tonight. When I first became a Council member in 2014, I knew that I was taking over a very special role in the community. Not only because I was succeeding an openly gay Council member but also because of the depth and breadth of the involvement of our LGBTQ community in Ward 1.
Not limited to the location of the D.C. Center or so many nonprofits here in the ward like Us Helping Us to serve our LGBTQ community. I take that responsibility very seriously. And as a result, since day one walking in the door I knew that I could be an ally and work on the issues our LGBTQ community faces. Whether that is the deep work that I have done with our youth, especially our youth experiencing homelessness, the work I have done to help expand healthcare options, or the workforce development program.
Those have all been hand and hand with leaders who have come to me and said this is the path that we want to chart. Will you be there with us? I’m really proud of that work. As Council member, I’ve also kept my promises to prioritize affordable housing, education, public safety, and constituent services. There are more than 1,200 units of affordable housing in the pipeline here in the ward. Improving our schools. Ensuring that we have millions of dollars each year in all modes of public safety from police on to the highest and best prevention programs that do exist in this country.
And our team here in Ward 1 has [inaudible] more than 8,000 constituent services cases since I took office nearly eight years ago. I’m incredibly proud of this work. I’m not sure if the time is up. So, I’m just going to stop and not go accidentally over. I know we’re having trouble with the timer here. But I look forward to delving more into these issues as we go.
Thank you so much for having me, Capital Stonewall Dems. I’m Sabel Harris. I’m a community builder, organizer and advocate. And I’m currently serving as ANC for the 14th and U area. I’m grateful to be here tonight because a close family member of mine whose privacy I want to respect came out to our family. They were met with denial with the reality of their life, that it was just a phase, and it would pass. I know what that is like and what it’s like to be overlooked, cast aside and discounted.
And I think a lot of us in this room know that too. I’m running for Ward 1 Council member to help uplift those who would have been forgotten. We don’t just need a Council member to write checks or the big policies. We need a Council member who will show up in times of joy and in times of crisis. That is my promise to you. As Council member, I will be there to celebrate, to mourn, and to be the person you can call when you need help. I will be the person who not only adds the right policy but has the right follow through. My platform consists of schools, sustainability service and safety. And I’m looking forward to tonight’s discussion on how we can create a community that works for us all. Thank you.
Ward 5 Candidates – Opening Statements
Faith Gibson Hubbard
Good evening. My name is Faith Gibson Hubbard. And I’m really thrilled to be here with you this evening. I am running to be the next Ward 5 Council member because I believe in the power of community. Community and creating a visible belonging have been a big factor for me in all of my work and throughout my life. And we know that is something extremely important for the quality of life in our city and particularly right here in our ward.
I’ve been so fortunate in the course of my life that I’ve been able to learn from so many of my colleagues, friends and loved ones who are part of the LGBTQ community and to share about the daily issues and discrimination and offer great beauty and opportunity that there is in the community. And I’m thankful for that opportunity and for the love that I have received.
The breadth of challenges that we face as a city requires a Council member who has demonstrated a commitment to thoughtful and consistent and collaborative and representative leadership, and someone who is skilled and experienced in being able to solve problems. And I would submit to you that I am that person. You may not have heard my name over the last twelve years because I’ve been busy doing the work behind the scenes building relationships and advocating for each and every one in our communities.
And while I have had great opportunities to work both inside and outside of government, I was so thankful for the last two work opportunities that I had that had me cross paths with Sheila Alexander Reid. I served as executive director, the first executive director of [inaudible] D.C. and the director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs while working closely with the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs and had an opportunity to learn so much.
So, we need someone who is concerned about creating a community and belonging and making sure we are able to see the reflections of ourselves and someone who is going to work hard. I am that person, who is looking to build communities in the beautiful city that we all deserve so that my children and all of us can grow up in a city where we all feel a wonderful sense of belonging. So, I look forward to the opportunity to talk more with you this evening.
Good evening, Capital Stonewall Democrats. My name is Vincent Orange. I’m an attorney and certified public accountant, a former two-term Ward 5 Council member, a two-term at-large Council member and also served as a Democratic National Committeeman in the Obama administration. And I’ve had the opportunity to be endorsed by the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club on a couple of occasions. Having worked with the amazing Jim Graham, together we established on a permanent basis the Office of LGBTQ. I also championed the legislation that enacted legislation to prevent discrimination against transgender individuals in the workplace.
I had the honor to actually conduct a same-sex marriage in the Wilson Building in 2015 for two nurses, Bradley Jason [inaudible] and Sam [inaudible]. Also, as a Democratic National Committeeman supported same-sex marriage. And while with Pepco, early in my career, I was able to get benefits for domestic partnerships. I was very pleased to have represented Ward 5 in the past in 1999 and 2007 where we jump started economic development for the city, school modernization and recreation centers renovation.
I am really honored to be with you this evening. Folks can get more information on my campaign on OrangeWard5.com. And I ask for your vote and support. I’m number seven on the ballot. Running for Ward 5 with number seven on the ballot. And I’d love to have your vote and support. Thank you so much for having me.
Good evening, everyone. I am Zachary Parker. I am the current Ward 5 representative to the State Board of Education. In fact, I’m just coming from a State Board meeting. I’m also the past president of the State Board and currently stand as the highest elected openly gay official in the District of Columbia, which I’m really proud of.
I come to this space because Ward 5 is gearing up for new leadership and we need a Ward 5 Council member that’s going to advance the issues that matter most to all Ward 5 residents – public safety and housing, that’s going to lead our community ethically and honorably. But that’s also going to give voice to communities that have long been underserved and underrepresented.
Despite D.C. being a city with the highest count of LGBTQ individuals per capita than any other city, we currently don’t have representation on the Council. And I am hoping that my candidacy this cycle changes that. Because there is much more that we need to do to house especially our youth that are constantly needing support in terms of housing but that are also struggling within our schools.
My vision is pretty simple. It is to build healthy communities for all Ward 5 neighbors so that all our basic needs are met. And that is not a simple or empty slogan. But it is around how can we co-create a vision around what every neighbor, every community deserves in Ward 5 regardless of their zip code. And work via the Council to make sure we funnel resources and supports to those communities. I’m proud to come here endorsed by a number of organizations, including the Victory Fund. And again, I’m looking forward to a spirited and thoughtful discussion that centers the needs of our LGBTQ community. And I just want to again thank you for hosting the discussion tonight.
Thank you so much for having me. And I just want to say thank you to the Capital Stonewall Democratic association for having me here. My name is Gordon Fletcher. And I’m running to be the first immigrant to become a Council member. So, while I’m not a member of the LGBTQ community, I am a member of a marginalized community. And I want to make sure I represent all individuals within Ward 5.
I come to you as a three-term ANC commissioner in the North Michigan Park community where I’ve lived in D.C. for over twenty years, but within Ward 5 for a little over ten. My wife Brittany is a therapist, and she served the community as well. I’ve worked with every level of government, from federal to congressional to local. So, I understand how to deal with legislation and deal with policy. I also deal with budgets. I’m also an educator. I teach at American University. I teach criminal justice and public policy.
As a commissioner, I’m proud to say I helped stop the opening of a liquor store. And just overall within Ward 5, my key issue as the next Ward 5 Council member is safety. And we also have to make sure we’re protecting all communities, marginalized communities, communities that recognize and identify themselves as members of the LGBTQ community. I understand that within that community there is unnecessary undue discrimination, harassment, and violence. The community has played such an integral role in the District of Columbia from socioeconomic and cultural development.
And we have to make sure we are advancing every possible measure for all communities, including the LGBTQ community. I understand that some of the major issues are centered around housing, access to living wages, and employment. And those are the issues I want to advocate for as the next Ward 5 Council member. And I look forward to a great discussion this evening. And I’m just glad to be here.
Matthew Shepard portrait dedicated at National Cathedral
Gay Wyoming student killed in 1998 hate crime honored in daylong ceremony
Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was murdered in a 1998 anti-gay hate crime while tied to a fence outside Laramie, Wyo., was honored at a ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 1, at Washington National Cathedral dedicating a newly commissioned portrait of Shepard.
Officials at the cathedral said the portrait by artist Kelly Latimore and commissioned by LGBTQ members of the Cathedral staff, is the only artistic image of Matthew Shepard created in collaboration with Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who were present during the ceremony.
Matthew Shepard’s ashes were interred at the Washington National Cathedral in 2018, 20 years after his death. The Cathedral announced in a statement this week that the Dec. 1 dedication of the Shepard portrait would also take place on what would have been Shepard’s 46th birthday.
“The horrific murders at Club Q in Colorado Springs are a tragic reminder that our LGBTQ friends and family continue to be targeted for who they love, and Matthew Shepard’s legacy reminds us of the urgency to confront bigotry and embrace people of all backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations,” said The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, in a statement.
Events surrounding the portrait dedication began with a 7 a.m. online prayer service “to celebrate and recall Matthew Shepard’s life,” the statement released by the Cathedral says. The service was led by Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to be consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.
The Cathedral next hosted a preview of the portrait for the news media at 10:30 a.m., where Dennis and Judy Shepard talked about the portrait and their son’s life and the impact his death had on the nation’s understanding of hate crimes.
“It’s amazing how similar and what a great job that Kelly [Latimore] has done to make it look like Matt and showing the essence of Matt,” Dennis Shepard told the Washington Blade while viewing the portrait in the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where the portrait was on display.
Artist Latimore, who also spoke to reporters during the morning briefing at the chapel, said he was moved in his discussions with Judy and Dennis Shepard while getting ready to begin work on the painting by copies of dozens of letters they sent him that had been sent to the Shepards by people across the country after their son’s death.
Latimore included written excerpts from dozens of those letters as the background to his portrait of Matthew Shepard, which can be seen and read when standing close to the portrait.
“Matthew will not be forgotten,” an excerpt from one of the letters on the portrait says.
Dennis and Judy Shepard created the Matthew Shepard Foundation shortly after Matthew’s death, which has been credited with playing a lead role in advocating for the passage by Congress in 2009 of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The measure was the first federal hate crime statute that expanded the coverage of the federal hate crimes law to include a victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class.
The Cathedral was to open its St. Joseph’s Chapel from 2-5 p.m. on Thursday to visitors where the Matthew Shepard portrait was on display. Dennis and Judy Shepard were scheduled to be present to greet visitors.
According to the statement released by the Cathedral, later in the evening at 7 p.m., the portrait was to be officially dedicated in a private service in the Cathedral’s crypt near the site where Shepard’s ashes were interred.
“A longtime supporter of the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the life of the church, the Cathedral considers LGBTQ equality one of the great civil rights issues of the 21st century,” the statement released by the Cathedral says.
One of the two men charged with Matthew Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to a murder charge in exchange for an agreement by prosecutors not to seek a death sentence. He was sentenced to life in prison.
The other man charged in the murder, Aaron McKinney, pleaded not guilty and went to trial, where he was convicted of murder by a jury. In a dramatic statement before the judge at the conclusion of the trial, Dennis Shepard announced he and his wife had asked prosecutors and the judge to spare McKinney from being sentenced to death, something he said McKinney did not do while fatally striking his son in the head multiple times with the barrel of a gun after the two men tied him to a fence post in a remote field outside Laramie.
The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole.
Three more LGBTQ ANC candidates declared winners
At least 38 LGBTQ hopefuls elected; outcome for two more uncertain
The number of known LGBTQ candidates who won election to Advisory Neighborhood Commission seats rose from 35 to 38 as the D.C. Board of Elections this week released its final, certified vote count for the Nov. 8 D.C. election.
The 38 winners were among 44 known LGBTQ candidates who ran for ANC seats this year. One of the candidates who emerged as a winner, incumbent James Tandaric of ANC 3F05 in the city’s Van Ness neighborhood, was trailing opponent Andrew Koval by just eight votes when the early vote count was released in the days following the election.
The final vote count that emerged this week shows Tandaric beat Koval by a vote of 258 to 250.
When the early vote count was released in the week after the election, the outcome of four LGBTQ ANC write-in candidates along with all write-in candidates could not be determined until the Board of Elections received a required affidavit of candidacy from the write-in candidates, which was due by Nov. 15.
When the final write-in candidate results were released earlier this week along with the names of the write-in candidates, two of the four LGBTQ write-in candidates emerged as winners, both from the Logan Circle ANC. The two are Christopher Dyer of ANC 2F05 and Matt Fouracre of ANC 2F06.
Another one of the LGBTQ write-in candidates, Charles Panfil of ANC 6E02 in the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood, finished in a tie with another write-in candidate. A spokesperson for the Board of Elections said tie votes in ANC elections are resolved by the drawing of lots. The spokesperson, Nicholas Jacobs, said he couldn’t immediately say when a drawing of the lot would take place.
The race for the fourth LGBTQ write-in candidate, Bradley Gallagher of ANC 1E01 in the city’s Park View neighborhood, could not be determined and a special election for that seat will have to be held, according to the Board of Election. The reason, the elections board said, is longtime gay ANC member Kent Boese, who withdrew his candidacy after it was too late to remove his name from the ballot, received the most votes. “As such, there is no winner for this contest” under the city’s election law, the Board of Elections said.
Elections board spokesperson Jacobs said a special election for that ANC seat will be called, with Gallagher and others who obtain the required number of ballot petition signatures will be allowed to run in the special election.
Boese withdrew his candidacy after he was nominated and subsequently approved by the D.C. Council to become director of the D.C. Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.
If Gallagher were to win in the special election and should Panfil win the drawing of the lot following the tie vote in his race, the total number of known LGBTQ candidates elected to ANC seats would rise to 40, a record number compared to past ANC elections.
There were 33 known LGBTQ ANC candidates who won election in 2020, which was the first year the Washington Blade kept track of the known LGBTQ ANC candidates who ran and won.
A list of the 35 winning LGBTQ ANC candidates known during the week following the Nov. 8 election can be seen here.
Ruby Corado withdrew $400,000 of Casa Ruby funds: D.C. att’y gen’l
Complaint says she transferred money to banks in El Salvador
The Office of the D.C. Attorney General on Monday filed an amended civil complaint in D.C. Superior Court against Casa Ruby and its founder and former executive director Ruby Corado that includes new allegations, including claims that Corado withdrew more than $400,000 of Casa Ruby funds for unauthorized use in El Salvador.
The 25-page amended complaint adds multiple new allegations to the Attorney General office’s original complaint against Casa Ruby filed on July 29. That complaint, among other things, charged the nonprofit LGBTQ community services organization and Corado with violating the D.C. Nonprofit Corporations Act in connection with its financial dealings.
The amended complaint also follows the approval by D.C. Superior Court Judge Danya Dayson of a request in August by the Attorney General’s office to place Casa Ruby under receivership and to appoint the Wanda Alston Foundation as the receiver. The D.C.-based Alston Foundation provides housing services for homeless LGBTQ youth.
On Oct. 28, the Alston Foundation released its Receiver’s Second Interim Report on its findings related to Casa Ruby’s finances. The report points to some of the same unexplained and unauthorized expenditures and transfers of Casa Ruby’s funds by Corado that are included in the AG office’s amended complaint.
The Alston Foundation had been scheduled to release its Receiver’s Third Interim Report also on Monday, Nov. 28. But Alston Foundation Executive Director June Crenshaw told the Washington Blade the foundation requested an extension of that deadline to give it a chance to review the new allegations in the AG office’s amended complaint.
Among other things, the AG office’s amended complaint adds three new defendants to what legal observers say is the equivalent of a lawsuit by the D.C. government against Corado and Casa Ruby. The new defendants named in the complaint are limited liability companies created and controlled by Corado to purportedly perform services in support of Casa Ruby.
They include a new version of Casa Ruby called Casa Ruby LLC doing business as Moxie Health; Pneuma Behavioral Health LLC; and Tigloballogistics LLC doing business as Casa Ruby Pharmacy.
The amended complaint notes that Corado, who claimed the new companies, especially the pharmacy, were part of Casa Ruby’s mission, never received approval to create the companies from the Casa Ruby board of directors, which the AG’s office has said rarely met and failed to provide any oversight of Corado’s actions.
According to the amended complaint, Corado transferred large sums of money from the original Casa Ruby to these companies and at some point, transferred funds from the new companies to her own personal bank account.
Both the earlier complaint filed in July and the amended complaint allege that Corado transferred as much as $500,000 of Casa Ruby’s funds to create what she said was a new Casa Ruby in El Salvador approved by the Casa Ruby board. But the earlier and amended complaints allege that the board never authorized the El Salvador operation.
Between April 2021 and September 2022, the amended complaint says, Corado transferred over $400,000 from two Casa Ruby related accounts “to accounts she held under her birth name in two El Salvador banks.” It says the Casa Ruby board “never authorized any of these transfers.”
In addition to the financial related allegations, the amended complaint charges Casa Ruby and Corado with violating D.C.’s Wage Payment and Collection Law and the D.C. Minimum Wage Revision Act by failing to pay Casa Ruby employees all the wages they earned for their work several months before Casa Ruby closed its operations in July 2022.
“At various times between July 2021 and July 2022, while Corado was freely supplementing her $260,000 salary with additional funds drawn from Casa Ruby’s bank accounts, many of Casa Ruby’s employees were paid only $15.00 per hour, less than the minimum wage in the District of Columbia as of July 1, 2021,” the amended complaint says. “None of these employees received the full wages they earned,” it says.
One of the former employees told the Washington Blade most of the remaining employees during Casa Ruby’s final months before its shutdown were paid late or not paid at all. Under the two labor related laws the amended complaint has charged Casa Ruby and Corado with violating, an employer could be required to pay the employees any lost or missing wages.
But the Receiver’s Second Interim Report filed in October by the Alston Foundation says among other improper financial dealings, Casa Ruby failed to pay the U.S. Internal Revenue Service payroll taxes withheld from its employees. The AG office’s amended complaint says that as of June of this year, Casa Ruby owed the IRS $127,435 in employment taxes, not including interest and penalties.
The receiver’s report points out that under federal law, employers that owe back taxes to the IRS must pay those claims first. “Thus, after all outstanding payroll taxes have been paid off, there is little chance that there will be anything left for any other debts or obligations like past rent or wages,” the report says.
The amended complaint filed by the AG’s office says a copy of the amended complaint was sent to Corado through an email address, which has been the only known way of reaching Corado. Former Casa Ruby employees have said she had been spending most of her time over the past year or longer in El Salvador. The complaint says that as of October, Corado still had not retained an attorney to represent her and was representing herself in a process known as pro se representation.
The Blade couldn’t immediately reach Corado for comment on the amended complaint through the same email address.
During a virtual court hearing in September, Corado denied any improper or illegal financial practices and blamed the D.C. government for Casa Ruby’s collapse, saying city agencies cut off funding for Casa Ruby without a legitimate reason. However, the D.C. Department of Human Services, which provided much of Casa Ruby’s funding through grants, has said the funding was stopped after Casa Ruby failed to submit financial reports required for all grant recipients that account for how the grant money is spent.
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