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

Chris Geldart is out as D.C.’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice after a personal trainer alleged that the city official assaulted him, raising questions about whether he violated the requirement that cabinet members live within city limits.

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

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

She declined to reveal what prompted Geldart’s resignation, other than to say “all the questions that are being raised are distracting from his job and my job.” Bowser said the resignation was a “mutual” decision and that 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 from the very important work of the district government’s public safety agencies,” he told the news station.

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

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

Geldart is scheduled to appear in court Monday for a hearing on the criminal charges.

Bowser said City Administrator Kevin Donahue will oversee D.C.’s public safety agencies until the city hires a permanent replacement. Donahue stepped in for Geldart when he was placed on leave last week.

Bowser’s office initially downplayed the assault charge, 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 that comment.

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

“The reaction was severe,” Bowser said. “But … it was about nothing.”

The argument started when Geldart’s car door hit the car Woodward got into 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 am not necessarily happy that he resigned. There’s a lot of mixed feelings there.”

Shortly after the incident, Geldart came under scrutiny for his stay. An Arlington County police statement about the incident said Geldart lived in Falls Church, Va., raising concerns among community leaders that the deputy mayor violated D.C. law. According to the district code, high-ranking executive branch appointees must be city residents within 180 days of appointment and remain so for the duration of their tenure.

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

Geldart had served since early 2021 as deputy mayor for public safety and justice, a position that involves overseeing the city’s police force, emergency and fire response, jails and other agencies tasked with keeping DC residents safe. He previously held roles as head of the Department of Public Works and DC’s 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.

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

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

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