The co-chair of a King County Regional Homelessness Authority committee defended a registered sex offender’s appointment to a committee. But the committee includes one of his alleged victims. When the victim spoke up, she was loudly shouted down. And now the KCRHA is looking to remove the co-chair from her position.
Shanéé Colston is the co-chair of the KCRHA’s Continuum of Care Advisory Committee (CoC), which funds programs to end homelessness in King County. The committee got together on May 3 to forward nominations to the board. One of the nominees is Thomas Whitaker, who goes by the Native American name Raven Crowfoot. Colston announced the nomination, noting Whitaker is a “lived expert,” meaning he was, at one time, homeless. She claimed he also represents the “LGBTQIA2S+” community, which helped earn him the nomination, though did not elaborate.
After the nomination was announced and voted through, board member K.S. spoke up with a concern. (Note: Since K.S. announced herself as a victim, the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH is not using her full-name even though the meeting was public and posted online).
“Can I say something? We have a code of ethics on this board and Thomas Whitaker Raven Crowfoot is a sex offender, a repeat sex offender and I have had bad experience with him,” K.S. said.
Immediately, Colston shouted that she was cutting the board member off because “we can’t disclose people’s personal business here.”
Shouting down a victim in the name of equity
The information about Whitaker is public record and relevant to a discussion about his role on a committee. There is only one registered sex offender with the name Thomas Whitaker in King County listed on the King County Sheriff’s Office sex offender registry. It shows Whitaker, 38, was convicted for communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.
According to Publicola, he was convicted in 2010 of harboring a 13-year-old runaway with whom he was having a sexual relationship. He was 25 at the time. In 2012, Publicola reports he was charged with raping a 15-year-old girl but ultimately pled guilty to communicating with a minor for immoral purposes. It reports that in 2018, Seattle Police said he was living in a tent with a 17-year-old girl.
But Colston didn’t just think this was an issue. In fact, she announced she was glad the sex offender could land on the board.
“Actually, I’m glad that, if that is the case, that he’s here because sex offenders are another population that is most vulnerable that don’t have housing,” Colston said angrily. Another board member, who appears to be Kristi Hamilton, also scolded K.S. She said, “No, we don’t do that here.”
But then K.S. revealed that “he has touched me” and that “if there’s a meeting where he’s at, I will not be able to be there.” Hamilton told K.S. to take the report to the police. K.S. said she did.
Then Colston’s tone became more aggressive and developed into a full shout.
“[K.S.] stop! 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 even removed from this meeting. Board Member, or public, or not. 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… prison. Everyone deserves housing,” Colston yelled.
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Demands that Shanéé Colston step down
At no point during the interaction did any board member speak compassionately towards a colleague who said she was victimized by the sex offender. K.S. was seen as the antagonist during the meeting. And her treatment caught the attention of the KCRHA, which put a trigger warning on their website for the video of the meeting: “Content Note: Shortly after the hour mark, this video contains emotionally intense discussion of sexual violence and inappropriate behavior. Watch with care.”
Peter Lynn, the KCRHA’s Chief Program Officer, wrote to the committee “to identify the abusive nature of the exchange” between Colston and K.S.
“This behavior by Co-Chair Colston is unacceptable. It is abusive to the committee member and creates a hostile environment for all committee members, KCRHA staff and for the public viewing the meeting,” Lynn wrote in an email dated May 4, 2023. “I request that she resign from her position on the Advisory Committee immediately.”
The behavior was so unacceptable that KCRHA cancelled a meeting scheduled for May 5th “until this issue is resolved.” As of May 14, the issue was not responsible.
“I will be working with KCRHA leadership and our attorneys to determine the next steps to ensure the safety of all those involved in the AC,” Lynn wrote.
A spokesperson for the KCRHA said, as of May 11, Lynn did not receive a reply to his email. Colston told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that while she couldn’t provide a comment because of Mother’s Day commitments, she planned on reached out this week with comments.. When not serving on the CoC, she is a Peer Counselor with the Downtown Emergency Service Center.
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