Tyrone Garrett
DCHA Executive Director Tyrone Garrett Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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The D.C. Housing Authority board of commissioners will not renew the contract of Executive Director Tyrone Garrett, Loose Lips has learned. Garrett was notified last week that he will soon be out of a job and then posted on social media that he’s looking for work.

“Hi everyone — I am looking for a new role and would appreciate your support,” the LinkedIn post reads. “Thank you in advance for any connections, advice, or opportunities you can offer. #OpenToWork.”

Garrett will remain in his position until the end of June, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the ouster. The board of commissioners, who collectively serve as Garrett’s boss, will select an interim director while they search for a permanent replacement. DCHA spokesperson Tony Robinson could not provide a comment in time for LL’s deadline. Phone messages left with Garrett were not returned.

Garrett was hired in October 2017 to lead DCHA, one of the District’s biggest landlords. The authority is in charge of 52 public housing properties and administers rental and housing assistance programs. Garrett’s exit comes after a year marred by internal turmoil and strained relations with the board of commissioners.

Garrett struggled at times to gain commissioners’ trust for his long-term vision to revitalize D.C.’s aging and decrepit public housing stock. Much of his plan focused on leveraging private money to redevelop 14 of DCHA’s most decrepit properties. In the beginning of 2019, a majority of the D.C. Council supported revoking DCHA’s status as an independent agency and moving it under the Office of the Mayor.

In May of last year, Garrett accidentally had DCHA’s former general counsel and his second in command, Chelsea Andrews, fired. He said in a sworn deposition that he intended to notify Andrews that her contract would not be renewed, but due to a miscommunication, DCHA’s head of human resources sent her a termination letter instead.

That mistake cost Garrett and the agency. Andrews filed a lawsuit against DCHA last July, and though a judge threw out some of her claims, it remains active. Sworn testimony taken as part of discovery revealed some of the internal drama that has plagued DCHA under Garrett. In his own deposition, Garrett said he suspected three now-former employees, including Andrews, of planning a coup.

Vice President Larry Williams, a close friend of Garrett’s who is in charge of property management, pleaded the fifth in his deposition out of an abundance of caution. Williams is named in a federal subpoena related to his previous job leading a housing authority in Illinois. His role in the investigation is unclear, and he has not been charged with a crime.

And DCHA’s internal auditor, Joanne Wallington, said in her deposition that she resigned after facing intimidation and retaliation following the results of an audit that revealed contract shenanigans and $1.3 million in wasted funds.

Garrett spent the first half of this month’s board of commissioners’ meeting on May 12 recounting DCHA’s accomplishments during his tenure. He highlighted DCHA’s apprenticeship program, the new command center at its headquarters on North Capitol Street NE, and the redevelopment of Judiciary House. He said the backlog of 3,000 work orders that existed when he was first hired has been cleared, and that DCHA has since completed 165,000 work orders.

Garrett also recalled his initiative to conduct environmental assessments and identify potential lead hazards throughout DCHA’s portfolio. He said that the effort put him in a difficult position of addressing a massive problem against legal deadlines. A 2020 D.C. Auditor’s report found that DCHA failed to address lead paint hazards in the required timeframes. In five buildings, Garrett opted to relocate families rather than address the lead hazards. That decision effectively kept those family with young children in units with lead well beyond the 90-day deadline.

It’s unclear who the board of commissioners will select as an interim director and how quickly they will move to fill the permanent position. Until then, DCHA’s clients, who are among the most vulnerable and socioeconomically disadvantaged, will pay the biggest price while the agency is without effective leadership.