At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman is raising concerns about the abrupt dismissal of a DC Housing Authority commissioner.
In a letter to Steve Walker, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Talent and Appointments, Silverman demands answers to a list of questions about Franselene St. Jean‘s sudden removal from the DCHA Board of Commissioners.
“Over the last year, I have become more and more troubled about decisions made by those in charge of DCHA, especially since the Board of Commissioners seems quite divided on critical policy and staffing questions,” Silverman writes. “The recent and abrupt dismissal of Vice Chair Franselene St. Jean-Clarke from the Board of Commissioners took me by surprise; it also raises red flags for me whether the swift removal was made to silence dissenting board voices.”
Walker gave St. Jean the boot shortly after she started asking questions about specific development deals and about the dismissal of DCHA’s general counsel, which is the subject of a whistleblower lawsuit.
When she was dismissed in late August, St. Jean’s term was expired and she technically no longer met the requirements for her seat, which is reserved for a housing voucher recipient. But, St. Jean previously told LL, she hasn’t received a voucher payment for the past two years, a detail she says DCHA was well aware of. Silverman suggests in her letter that St. Jean’s sudden dismissal may have been a move to “silence dissenting board voices.”
Silverman points out that there are at least two commissioners also currently serving beyond their terms, though LL is aware of a potential third person. Commissioners LeJuan Strickland, Jose Ortiz Gaud, and Nakeisha Neal Jones are all serving terms that expired in July 2020.
“My observation is that those commissioners have been less publicly vocal about DCHA leadership decision-making and generally sided with the Board Chair Neil Albert and Director [Tyrone] Garrett,” Silverman writes. “St. Jean-Clarke generally has not.”
Walker did not immediately respond to LL’s email seeking comment. LL will update this article if the director responds. Silverman requested answers to her questions by Sept. 25.