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D.C. court disputes claim by trans group over why LGBTQ crime victim housing facility was closed

Court never promised specific number of residents for ETC apartments: agreement

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D.C. court officials are disputing claims by Earline Budd’s ETC group. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A spokesperson for the D.C. Superior Court released a statement to the Washington Blade on Jan. 11 disputing claims by the local organization Empowering the Transgender Community, known as ETC, that it was forced to suspend operation of its temporary emergency housing facility for LGBTQ victims of violent crime because the court reneged on a promise to send enough residents to financially sustain the facility.

ETC announced in March of 2022 that it had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the D.C. court’s Crime Victims Compensation Program to provide temporary emergency housing specifically for LGBTQ crime victims for up to 30 days through an arrangement with the courts.

Earline Budd, ETC’s executive director, said ETC had rented a small apartment building to operate a housing facility that she said last March could accommodate up to 26 individuals or a smaller group of families for the crime victims program. Court officials have since said the number was reduced to 22 because a few of the apartments in the building would be used for ETC staff offices.

The location of the facility had to remain confidential, Budd said, as part of the agreement with the courts to ensure the safety of its residents.

But in December Budd informed the Blade that ETC had to suspend its operation of the housing facility in November because the court did not provide enough tenants to financially sustain the facility. Budd said the director of the Crime Victims Compensation Program, Blanche Reese, told her and others during a visit to the ETC facility last March that the program expected to fill the facility to its capacity with crime victim residents.

Budd said the far fewer than expected residents sent to the ETC facility by the court created a financial shortfall when the overhead costs of renting the building and paying staff to operate the program exceeded the reimbursement payments they received from the court.

“The court never promised ETC a specific number of claimants to be housed by this provider,” said Douglas Buchanan, director of Media and Public Relations for the D.C. Courts, in a statement to the Blade.

Buchanan pointed to the four-page Memorandum of Understanding between ETC and the courts, which Buchanan sent to the Blade. The document, which was signed by Budd on Feb. 15 2022, makes no mention of the number of “victim/claimants” the court would send to the ETC facility.

The MOU states that the reimbursement by the Crime Victims Compensation Program (CVCP) to ETC “for each emergency housing stay is limited to a period of 30 days at the rate of $100.00 per day.”

The MOU states that CVCP would reimburse ETC for the costs of food if food is provided to the victim/claimants. “The amount shall not exceed $100.00 per week up to a total of $400.00,” the MOU says.

Buchanan also provided the Blade with comments from Crime Victims Compensation Program Director Blanche Reese, regarding Budd’s claim that Reese made a verbal promise to send enough tenants to fill the ETC facility to capacity.

“The managers were told that the facility would probably stay full because the facility was so beautiful and some of the other facilities were not as nice,” Reese said. “My statement was taken out of context,” Reese added. “They were also informed of how placement is decided. For example, if a crime happened in S.E. (where the facility is located) we would try to place the claimant away from the crime location, unless the claimant signed a disclaimer.”

According to Reese, “Ultimately, the claimant makes the decision if they want to stay at the facility that CVCP suggests…ETC was never promised a specific number of claimants. They were told that it would vary.”

Budd said ETC’s financial problems were heightened when the court program failed to send its reimbursement payments on time, sometimes sending them a month or two after they were due.

In his statement to the Blade, Buchanan said the delays in reimbursement payments were caused by ETC submitting inaccurate invoices. The MOU calls for ETC to provide invoices related to the claimants who stayed at the ETC facility.

“In the beginning, the delay in payments were due to inaccurate invoices submitted by ETC,” Buchanan said. “The CVCP director and accounting officer had a meeting with the [ETC] board to explain the process and clear up any discrepancies,” he said. “It was at that time the ETC board authorized the CVCP to correct any inaccurate invoices submitted and process the payments to address the delay in processing payments.”

In response to concerns raised by ETC that the court also didn’t fully reimburse ETC for the cost of food for crime victims and their family members sent to the facility, Buchanan said ETC was aware of restrictions by “food caps” set by the CVCP rules

In her statement sent to the Blade by Buchanan, Reese said the court “had no idea that ETC relied on the CVCP as their sole source of funding.” Reese said she was contacted by the attorney representing the ETC organization asking for a meeting with her to discuss the group’s finances.

“It was at this meeting that they informed me that the ETC board had made a decision to temporarily cease providing housing because of accounting issues,” Reese said. “At this meeting we also discussed staffing concerns because I was informed that the entire staff had resigned,” said Reese. “We were supposed to revisit the viability of the ETC organization in January 2023.”

Budd has said staffing issues surfaced when the lower reimbursement of funds from the court due to fewer residents than expected caused a shortfall in funds preventing ETC from paying some of its staff and paying the rent for the building.

She said ETC remained hopeful that it could reopen the emergency housing facility for the crime victims program if its arrangement with the court could be revised. She said ETC was also in discussion with the D.C. Department of Human Services over the possibility that the ETC facility could be used as a low-barrier shelter for homeless people.

Budd said that due to the privacy restrictions required for the crime victims program, she didn’t think the ETC building could be used for both crime victim residents and homeless residents at the same time.

But in his statement to the Blade, Buchanan said, “The decision to use the facility for other purposes would totally be up to the ETC executive director and board.”

Buchanan said the court would also like to revisit its relationship with ETC, although he said the ETC attorney or ETC board members had not contacted the CVCP about resuming the program as of earlier this week.

“We are looking forward to ironing some things out and we are optimistic that the courts and ETC are going to get together in the coming months in an effort to try to hammer out some of these issues and try to pave a path forward that benefits those that ETC and the DC Courts serve,” he said.

Budd and the ETC attorney, Charles Ross, couldn’t immediately be reached to get their reaction to the statements sent to the Blade this week from Buchanan and CVCP Director Blanche Reese.

Buchanan sent a copy of an email that attorney Ross sent to Buchanan this week in which Ross said he would not be responding to the Blade’s request for comment at  this time.

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District of Columbia

Bowser’s highest-level adviser resigns after sexual harassment allegation

Female staffer accuses John Falcicchio of longstanding abuse

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John Falcicchio (Screen capture via WUSA9)

Lawyers representing a D.C. government employee shook up the city’s political establishment on Monday when they announced that the employee filed a sexual harassment complaint against John Falcicchio, the now former D.C. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and Mayor Muriel Bowser’s longtime chief of staff.

The attorneys, Debra Katz and Kayla Morin, did not identify the city employee. 

The announcement by Katz and Morin in a press release came shortly after Mayor Bowser issued her own announcement at a news conference on the same day. The mayor confirmed that Falcicchio’s sudden resignation last Friday, March 17, followed her decision to launch an investigation into allegations against Falcicchio.    

But Bowser said issues surrounding her longtime adviser’s departure amounted to “a sensitive matter that includes privacy concerns” that prevented her from disclosing why she initiated the investigation and why Falcicchio abruptly resigned. 

She said the investigation was being conducted by the city’s Office of Legal Counsel, which is “following established policies and procedures” and that all relevant D.C. government staff members were fully cooperating with the investigation.

“I can also tell you that this investigation does not involve any allegations of improprieties related to business transactions,” Bowser told reporters attending the news conference, which was initially called to celebrate the completion of the city’s 9th Street, N.W. protected bike lane project and to discuss updates on the Capital Bikeshare program.

“I have every confidence in my new chief of staff, Lindsey Parker, and in our new Interim Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Keith Anderson,” Bowser said at the news conference. “And I have immense confidence in the 37,000 employees of the D.C. government who will keep us moving forward,” she said.

Parker has served as the city’s chief technology officer since 2019 and as assistant city administrator since 2022. Anderson has served as director of the D.C. Department of General Services, which oversees the city’s buildings and properties.  

“We represent an employee of the District of Columbia who came forward to report serious allegations of sexual harassment by former Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio,” the statement released by attorneys Katz and Morin says.

“It is our understanding that this behavior is longstanding, and our client is cooperating fully with the investigation, which Mayor Bowser initiated immediately,” the statement continues. “Our client is courageous. She came forward to ensure accountability and protect other women,” it says. “Given the gravity of our client’s allegations – which involve unwelcome advances and sexual contact – we ask the media to respect her privacy,” the statement says.

It concludes by encouraging “everyone affected” to contact Maia Ellis, the Associate Director of the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel, who’s leading the investigation, at [email protected].

Katz is a founding partner and Morin is an associate of the D.C. law firm Katz Banks Kumin, which specializes in sexual harassment law, whistleblower law, and employment law, according to a write-up on its website.

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride reveals 2023 Pride theme

This year will focus on ‘peace, love, revolution’

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Capital Pride Board President Ashley Smith speaks at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco in D.C. on March 16, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Over 300 people turned out Thursday night, March 16, for the annual D.C. Capital Pride Reveal celebration, which organizers say served as the official kick-off of the LGBTQ Pride events for 2023 in the nation’s capital.

Among other plans for the 2023 Pride events, including the annual Pride parade and festival, organizers announced this year’s theme for the Pride festivities will be “peace, love, revolution.”

The event took place in one of the large ballrooms at D.C.’s Kimpton Hotel Monaco at 700 F St., N.W.

Officials with Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual Pride events, also announced at the Reveal celebration that the 2023 Pride events will set the stage for 2025, when D.C. will serve as the host city for World Pride 2025.

World Pride is an international LGBTQ event that takes place over a period of several days that usually draws a million or more visitors from countries throughout the world to the host city.

Organizers of the World Pride celebration announced last year that they had accepted D.C.’s bid to host World Pride 2025. The bid was prepared by the Capital Pride Alliance and D.C. government officials, including officials from the office of Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau.

“We are thrilled to introduce our theme for Capital Pride 2023 as we gear up to welcome the world to D.C. in 2025, which is also the 50th anniversary of Pride in D.C.,” said Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos in a statement released on Friday. “This year’s theme kicks off a three-year campaign leading into the message that we want to share with the world in 2025,” Bos said.

In the statement it released on Friday, Capital Pride explained its rationale for selecting its theme, saying it was based in part on the LGBTQ rights movement’s history.

“Social justice issues, including those involving the LGBTQ+ community, were shaped by moments that turned into movements beginning in the 1950s and in the years that followed,” the statement says. “These movements created a REVOLUTION of change that sparked the beginning of newfound freedoms,” it says.

“The fight for these liberties instilled a sense of Pride in members of the LGBTQ+ community in the decades since,” the statement continues. “PEACE and LOVE motivated many of these pioneers to be brave and inspired others to fight for human rights for years to come,” it says.

The statement points out that “recent challenges” have arisen in state legislatures and in Congress that have once again placed the LGBTQ community “under fire from those who would deny us our basic civil rights.” It says these challenges will require a continuation of the fight for freedom “through direct action in the streets and the halls of government.”

Among those who spoke at the Reveal event, in addition to Bos, were Capital Pride Board President Ashley Smith, and Capital Pride’s public affairs director, Marquia Parnell.

Also speaking was Japer Bowles, director of the D.C. Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, who told the gathering that the city government, especially Bowser, will be working diligently to provide full city support for WorldPride 2025.

D.C. drag performer Shi-Queeta-Lee drew loud applause from the crowd that filled the hotel ballroom for a drag performance after the speakers addressed the crowd.

“We’re going to be focused on peace, love, and revolution over the course of this next year,” Smith told the Washington Blade at the conclusion of the Reveal event. “We’re super excited about it because this is a part of the movement that adds to the historical pieces as we approach 2025 and World Pride in 2025,” he said.

In its statement released on Friday, the Capital Pride Alliance announced the 2023 Capital Pride Parade will take place June 10, and will travel the same route as last year’s D.C. Pride Parade. A Pride block party will also take place this year in a two-block section of 17th Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle in the same location as last year, the Capital Pride announcement says.

And it says the annual Capital Pride Festival and concert will take place on June 11, also at the same location as last year — along a stretch of Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., with the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop.  

“Through the events of Capital Pride and its many partnerships, last year Capital Pride Alliance was able to raise over $200,000 for the Pride 365 Fund,” according to the Capital Pride statement. 

“The success of last year allowed CPA to invest and partner with the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community to establish a new LGBTQ+ community center for Washington, D.C., and continue the support of partner organizations that organize events such as DC Black Pride, Trans Pride, Youth Pride, Silver Pride, Latinx Pride and Asian and Pacific Islander Pride,” the statement says.

Further details of plans for Capital Pride 2023 can be access at www.CapitalPride.org.

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District of Columbia

Casa Ruby board members deny responsibility for org’s collapse

Civil complaints filed against officials to be discussed at March 17 hearing

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Ruby Corado has denied engaging in any improper financial actions. (Washington Blade photo by Ernesto Valle)

At least five of the eight former members of the Casa Ruby board of directors who are named in a civil complaint charging them with failing to adequately oversee the organization’s finances and practices by its former director Ruby Corado have filed court papers disputing the allegations against them.

Details of their response to a third-party civil complaint filed against them by the Wanda Alston Foundation in its role as the court-appointed receiver of the now-defunct Casa Ruby LGBTQ community services center were expected to surface at a March 17 D.C. Superior Court virtual hearing on the Casa Ruby case.

The Alston Foundation’s complaint was filed on Dec. 23, several months after the Office of the D.C. Attorney General filed its own civil complaint against Casa Ruby and Ruby Corado. The Attorney General’s complaint, among other things, alleges that Corado and the organization violated the city’s Nonprofit Corporations Act in connection with its financial dealings. An amended version of the original complaint charges that Corado withdrew more than $400,000 of Casa Ruby’s funds for unauthorized use in El Salvador, where Corado currently lives.

The Alston Foundation complaint, which also names Corado as a defendant, identifies each of the eight former board members as defendants and “respectfully requests restitution, compensatory damages, punitive damages, receivership fees and expenses, court costs, attorneys fees and expenses, and any other relief the court deems necessary and proper.”

According to the complaint, each of the board members failed to exercise their legally required oversight of Casa Ruby’s operations and of practices by Corado that allegedly resulted in the financial collapse of Casa Ruby, forcing it to close its operations.

Miguel Rivera, one of the former board members who is an attorney, states in his response to the complaint that it “fails and/or may be barred, in whole or in part, because a bona fide fiduciary relationship did not exist between Third-Party Plaintiff [Alston Foundation on behalf of Casa Ruby] and Third-Party Defendant Miguel Rivera.”

Rivera’s response adds that the complaint should be dismissed on a wide range of grounds, including his assertion that he as a board member “has not engaged in (a) willful misconduct; (b) crimes; (c) transactions that resulted in improper personal benefits of money, property, or service; and (d) acts or omissions that are not in good faith and are beyond the scope of authority of the corporation.”

The responses filed by the former board members are not included in the current online D.C. Superior Court case docket for the Casa Ruby case. At the request of the Washington Blade, Douglas Buchanan, the court’s public information officer, provided the Blade with the responses by Rivera and former board members Meredith Zoltick and Carlos Gonzales.

Similar to Rivera’s response, the response filed by Zoltick and Gonzales also disputes the validity of the complaint and asks the judge to dismiss the case against them.

Nick Harrison, the attorney representing the Alston Foundation in its role as Casa Ruby Receiver, said he has learned that another two former Casa Ruby board members have filed some form of a response to the complaint against them.

In a separate motion filed in court on Jan. 21, Harrison states on behalf of the Alston Foundation that it has taken the legally required steps needed to properly serve each of the eight former board members with court papers informing them they have been named as defendants in the complaint. He said he expects Superior Court Judge Danya Dayson, who is presiding over the Casa Ruby case, to rule that the legally required efforts to serve each of the defendants have been met.

Court records show that Corado, who has appeared in previous virtual court hearings through a phone hookup, has yet to retain an attorney to represent her.

Corado has denied engaging in any improper financial actions and has insisted the Casa Ruby board approved her actions, including her decision to open a Casa Ruby operation in El Salvador. In a December interview with the Blade’s El Salvador correspondent, Corado said the allegations that D.C. officials have made against her amount to “persecution.”

At a Jan. 6 court hearing held virtually, Corado reiterated her earlier claims that the D.C. government was responsible for Casa Ruby’s closing in July 2022 by withholding hundreds of thousands of dollars that Corado says the city owed Casa Ruby for services it provided under city grants.

City officials have disputed those claims, saying the funds were withheld or discontinued because Casa Ruby did not provide the required documentation or reports showing that it performed the work associated with the city grants.

The March 17 court hearing is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. and will be broadcast through the court’s Webex system.

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