A Seattle public official who angrily shouted down opposition to a convicted pedophile’s nomination to a taxpayer-funded role is refusing to resign, despite a request that she step down from her agency’s head.
On May 3, Shanee Colston was co-chairing a Zoom meeting of a subcommittee of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) to hear nominations to fill an open spot on the board.
The meeting erupted in chaos when a fellow board member spoke in opposition to the nomination of registered sex offender Thomas Whitaker, prompting an outburst from Colston, who defended Whitaker and berated the member who opposed him.
Despite an appeal this week from KCRHA Chief Program Officer Peter Lynn for Colston to resign from the subcommittee, she has refused to resign, an agency spokesperson told KOMO-TV on Friday.
‘KCRHA 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,’ the agency said in a public statement.
Shanee Colston, co-chair of the Continuum of Care board – angrily shouted down opposition to a convicted pedophile’s nomination to a taxpayer-funded role
KCRHA said it opposes Whitaker’s nomination and has asked Colston to resign, but so far she has yet to step down from the subcommittee
‘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,’ the statement added.
‘The KCRHA is continuing actions to ensure safety for the board, staff, and members of the public.’
DailyMail.com reached out to KCRHA on Friday evening for any update on the matter, but did not receive an immediate response.
Colston is a ‘peer counselor’ and co-chair of a subcommittee of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority.
When Whitaker’s name appeared among the nominees to the subcommittee at the May 3 meeting, Colston enthusiastically threw her weight behind him, touting his ‘lived experience’ in being homeless.
Whitaker’s nomination to the board was approved, despite Sawyckyj’s complaint
Whitaker, 38, who also goes by the name Raven Crowfoot, has been convicted of raping minors on three occasions. His victims include a 13-year-old girl, a 15-year-old girl and 17-year-old girl, with whom he was found sleeping in a tent.
After his name was introduced among the candidates, Marine veteran Kristina Sawyckyj, a sexual assault survivor who uses a wheelchair, voiced her strong concern.
‘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 a bad experience with him.’
Later, she alleged that Whitaker had ‘touched’ her innapropriately.
Rather than hear her out, Colston snapped, unleashing a tirade directed at Sawyckyj.
‘I’m going to cut you off. We can’t disclose people’s personal business here, right? Although that’s public disclosure, like we have no right to out anybody in this space.’
Sawyckyj, a wheelchair-bound mother, retreated.
‘OK, OK.. I just thought…’ she tailed off.
Colston continued her offense, becoming angrier with every word.
‘That’s just not OK, at all and I won’t stand for that as the co-chair. We’re not here to discover people’s backgrounds. And actually if that’s the case then I’m glad he’s here because sex offenders are another group of the population that is most vulnerable, that don’t have housing.
‘This is not the forum… stop! As the co-chair I am 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 then 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 is seen on the Zoom yelling at a board member for raising objections to a sex offender joining their board
Kristina Sawyckyj, right, is seen participating in the May 3 Zoom meeting. She objected to Whitaker joining the board, and was silenced by Colston and others
Sawyckyj, 53, served in the Marines but says she uses a wheelchair following injuries in a violent sex attack in the 1980s
The board is a subdivision of the King County Regional Homeless Authority, funded by state taxpayers and federal grants.
In 2010, when Whitaker was 25, he was convicted of harboring a minor, a 13-year-old runaway with whom he had a sexual relationship, according to court records obtained by independent Seattle news site Publicola.
In 2012, Whitaker was charged with raping a minor in a case involving a 15-year-old girl.
Sawyckyj, a wheelchair-bound mother, retreated
He pled guilty to communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, a felony sex crime.
And in 2018, Seattle police found him living in a tent near the Seattle waterfront with a 17-year-old girl, whose mother picked her up and took her home, according to Seattle court records obtained by the site.
Sawyckyj, a 53-year-old former Marine, was so severely injured in a sexual assault while in the armed forces that she ended up in a wheelchair, she told The Urbanist in 2017.
She joined the U.S. Navy in 1987 and served as a hospital corpsman until 1992.
She said she was raped while in the service and suffers from chronic physical injuries that put her in a wheelchair, she told King5 News. She then spent many years homeless, living in her van.
The day after the meeting, the chief program officer for King County Regional Homeless Authority wrote to the board and demanded Colston’s resignation as co-chair, Publicola reported.
Colston, who works as a peer counselor with the Downtown Emergency Service Center, was noted to have ‘shouted down’ Sawyckyj for her valid objections, said Peter Lynn.
Lynn said that Colston ‘shouted down committee member Kristina Sawyckyj for identifying that one of the prospective AC nominees was a registered sex offender, which is public information.
‘Ms. Sawyckyj was also shouted down by Chair Colston when she spoke of her experience being inappropriately touched by the nominee.’
The King County Regional Homeless Authority was created in 2018, and in 2022 applied for $14 million in federal funding for the next three years.
The funding would be spent on projects ‘that focus on investing in programs that reduce unsheltered homelessness, improve service engagement, health outcomes, and housing stability by using coordinated Housing First and Public Health Principles to serve unsheltered individuals and families.’
KCRHA is also funded by local taxpayers.
On Tuesday, the group announced that its founding CEO, Marc Dones, appointed in April 2021, was stepping down.
His resignation was not linked to the row about Colston’s actions but rather what some classed as an impossible task.
In a letter to members of the authority’s implementation board and governing committee, obtained by The Seattle Times, Dones cited burnout as the reason for resignation.
‘After five years I am tired,’ Dones wrote, including the creation of the authority in the timeline.
‘I believe the time has come for me to pass the baton.’
The KCRHA said the agency’s purpose and function to ‘unify and coordinate policy and funding across all of King County for a regional approach to bringing more people inside’ will remain the same after Dones steps down.