D.C. Housing Authority Commissioner Antonio Taliaferro is accused by two DCHA employees of aggressive and threatening behavior, according to two anti-stalking petitions filed in D.C. Superior Court. Taliaferro serves as a resident commissioner and represents the interests of senior citizens and residents with disabilities.
In the first petition, filed Sept. 9, a DCHA employee recounts a phone conversation in which Taliaferro allegedly threatened to fire them after they refused to retaliate against another employee. No further details are provided in the petition, and the petitioner declined to speak with Loose Lips on the record.
A source close to the situation tells LL that Taliaferro asked a DCHA employee for a personal favor for a relative living in a public housing building. When the employee refused, the commissioner called another employee—the petitioner—and demanded consequences for the refusal.
“Antonio Taliaferro called me on my DCHA cell phone having an unethical conversation wanting me to retaliate against an employee i supervise,” the anti-stalking order petition says. “I refused and he then threatened to fire me and the employee.”
The petition describes three more interactions, two over the phone and one in person. On Aug. 8, the petitioner writes, Taliaferro became aggressive during a tour of a public housing property.
“When engaging me he continues to abuse his authority in his position and … become[s] hostile with his body language and intimidates me with threats to have me fired,” the petitioner writes.
Judge Shelly Mulkey signed a temporary ASO Sept. 10. It remains in effect until Sept. 24, when a hearing is scheduled to take place.
The second petition, filed Sept. 13, describes two incidents at two different properties a little more than two hours apart. In the first, the petitioner describes how Taliaferro mispronounced their name, and flew into a rage when they corrected him.
“He came off very [intimidating] and was trying to abuse his position and authority while I was trying to conduct [a] property tour,” the petitioner writes.
In the second, the petitioner writes that they believe the commissioner was trying to humiliate, harass, and taunt them.
The petitioner, also a DCHA employee, did not wish to speak with LL on the record. A source who witnessed the incident tells LL that Taliaferro was so aggressive that a police officer had to step in to calm him down.
Judge Sherry Trafford dismissed the second petition on Sept. 14. The case docket says the allegations “did not rise to the level of stalking. It is a civil matter.”
Multiple sources close to DCHA tell LL that employees reported Taliaferro’s aggressive and threatening behavior as early as July, shortly after Executive Director Brenda Donald assumed leadership of the agency. Donald was dragged out of near-retirement after a career in various leadership roles in D.C. government that spanned four mayoral administrations, most recently with the Child and Family Services Agency. Despite her lack of experience in real estate or affordable housing, the DCHA board of commissioners voted to approve a two-year contract for Donald in mid-August in hopes that her managerial skills could help turn the troubled agency around.
It’s unclear what action, if any, Donald or the commission has taken to address the allegations against Taliaferro. The board, by a majority vote, can remove a commissioner for misconduct, conflicts of interest, neglect of duty, or incompetence. Neither Donald, nor board chairman Neil Albert responded to LL’s emailed questions. Taliaferro has not responded to an email either.
The board of commissioners met in executive session last Friday, Sept. 17, to discuss “internal … matters” and “board issues.” If LL were a betting man, he’d wager that they discussed what to do about the allegations against Taliaferro. Venable attorneys Claude Bailey and Robin Burroughs were in the virtual meeting before the board went into private session.
DCHA is D.C.’s biggest landlord, with more than 7,500 public housing tenants, and distributes thousands of housing vouchers. The board of commissioners act as a check on the executive director and has the authority to approve the budget and contracts worth $250,000 or more, among other duties.
These allegations against Taliaferro are coming to light shortly after several DCHA police officers spoke out about what they describe as a culture of sexual harassment and bullying within the department. Officers say their complaints about abusive behavior from department leadership went unaddressed for years. One day after LL published details of the abuse officers say they endured, DCHA issued a request for proposals for “investigative services for [an] employment related matter.”