One Seattle official is refusing demands to resign after a tense committee hearing concerning the nomination of a convicted sex offender to a Seattle homelessness board resulted in her shouting at a concerned citizen.
The incident occurred during a May 3 Zoom meeting of a subcommittee of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) when Marine veteran and sexual assault survivor Kristina Sawyckyj claimed the nominated sex offender, Thomas Whitaker-Raven Crowfoot, “touched” her on a previous occasion.
“We have a code of ethics on this board and Thomas Whitaker-Raven Crowfoot is a sex offender — repeat sex offender — and I have had a bad experience with him,” Sawyckyj said.
Then, committee co-chair Shanee Colston angrily jumped to defend Whitaker and scolded Sawyckyj for using the meeting to “out” someone despite the past convictions being public knowledge.
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“That’s just not okay, at all. I won’t stand for that as a co-chair. We’re not here to discover people’s backgrounds,” Colston yelled, as Sawyckyj appeared to try and change the subject.
Colston interrupted Sawyckyj, saying: “And I’m actually glad that is the case that he’s here because sex offenders are another population that is most vulnerable that don’t have housing. People do change.”
Another board member jumped in, agreeing with Colston and asking Sawyckyj if she had taken the issue to the police, to which she said she had.
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Colston, however, continued laying into Sawyckyj, saying: “As the co-chair, I’m telling you that you cannot talk like that in this meeting. I will not have that here. If anyone wants to talk like that you will be muted and removed from this board meeting.”
“This is about equity and everyone, everyone, deserves housing. I don’t care if they’re a sex offender. I don’t care if they’re Black. I don’t care if they’re indigenous. I don’t care if they’re a criminal. I don’t care if they’re coming out of jail or prison. Everyone deserves housing,” she continued.
According to the King County Sheriff’s Office, Whitaker is a registered sex offender with two offenses described as “communication with minors for immoral purposes.”
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KCRHA Chief Program Officer Peter Lynn appealed unsuccessfully for Colston to resign from the subcommittee this week, according to local affiliate KOMO-TV.
In a statement, KCRHA said it “shares the concerns of our community about the nomination of a registered sex offender for the Continuum of Care Board, and does not support that nomination” of Whitaker to the board.
The statement also blasted Colston’s behavior toward Sawyckyj.
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“We agree that the behavior by the current Board Co-Chair in shouting down the board member who identified that the nominee is a registered sex offender was unacceptable, and we immediately asked the Co-Chair to resign,” it said.
Colston continues to oppose resignation requests.