Chris Geldart, DC’s top public safety official, resigns amid controversy

Chris Geldart stepped out as DC’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice after a personal trainer alleged in a criminal complaint that the city official assaulted him and questions emerged about whether it violated the requirement that cabinet members reside within city limits.

DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced she had accepted his resignation Wednesday afternoon.

“I am saddened to say that I have accepted Deputy Mayor Chris Geldart’s resignation,” Bowser said at a press conference. “But I’m proud of the work we’ve done together over the past few years.”

She declined to divulge what prompted Geldart to resign, other than to say that “every issue raised distracts from her work and mine.” Bowser said the resignation was a “mutual” decision and the two had a “face-to-face” conversation.

DC deputy mayor for public safety on leave after assault charge

Geldart’s departure was first reported by NBC4. “I no longer wanted to be a distraction to the vital work of the district government’s public safety agencies,” he told the news channel.

He did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post.

Geldart has been on leave since early last week, when police said the personal trainer filed a criminal complaint alleging Geldart grabbed him by the neck in a parking lot at a Gold’s Gym in Arlington on October 1. .

Geldart is due in court Monday for an arraignment hearing on the criminal charge.

Bowser said City Administrator Kevin Donahue will oversee DC’s public safety agencies until the city hires a permanent replacement. Donahue replaced Geldart when he was furloughed last week.

Bowser’s office initially played down the assault allegation, saying in a statement that “it sounds like something that happens to a lot of people.” The mayor said Wednesday that she had not seen video footage of the assault when her office made the comment.

Video of part of the encounter shows personal trainer Dustin Woodward and Geldart aggressively pointing at each other before Geldart approaches Woodward and the two turn chest to chest. Woodward alleges the deputy mayor grabbed him by the throat; footage shows Geldart appearing to push him before Woodward pushes his arm away.

“The response has been serious,” Bowser said. “But…it was for nothing.”

The altercation began when Geldart’s car door hit the car Woodward was riding in in the parking lot, according to Woodward’s account.

“It’s just a lot,” Woodward said in a statement, referring to Geldart’s resignation. “I’m not necessarily happy that he resigned. There’s a bunch of mixed emotions there.

Shortly after the incident, Geldart came under intense scrutiny at his residence. An Arlington County police statement on the incident said Geldart lived in Falls Church, Va., prompting community leaders to fear the deputy mayor was violating DC law. Under the district code, high-level executive appointees must be city residents within 180 days of their appointment and remain so during their term.

Bowser previously said she knew Geldart had a home in Virginia where his family lived and he was allowed to have a second home. On Wednesday, she said Geldart “claims to have taken up residence in the district” and emphasized that she expects her cabinet members to be “bona fide” residents of the city.

Geldart had served since the start of 2021 as deputy mayor of public safety and justice, a post that involves overseeing the city’s police force, emergency and fire response, prisons and prisons. other agencies charged with keeping DC residents safe. He previously held positions leading the Department of Public Works and the DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency and was praised by the mayor for his role in the city’s early response to the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus.

In 2017, he resigned as head of DC’s Homeland Security Agency following allegations that he used the office to benefit a “close personal acquaintance”. The city’s ethics committee ultimately dismissed the investigation, citing insufficient evidence.

“Chris has been a very capable and efficient public servant,” Bowser said Wednesday.