As reported by PubliCola editor Erica Barnett on June 30, former King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) CEO Marc Dones was in the process of negotiating a contract for consulting work with the City of Seattle’s Human Services Department (HSD) shortly after their sudden resignation.
“[T]he deal is said to be a kind of payment in lieu of severance because Dones decided to resign rather than forcing the agency to fire them, which was starting to look more and more likely in the weeks leading up to Dones’ resignation,” Barnett wrote, in a June 5 post. The contract, she reported, was expected to run for three months following Dones’ resignation.
In reality, it’s more likely to be five.
Via a public records request, Real Change obtained a copy of the contract, which shows that Dones is scheduled to work through December 31. During that time, their company, Gray Sky Policy LLC, will be paid $250 per hour, up to a total of $60,000.
To put that in proportion, a 2019 University of Washington School of Social Work study found that a social worker with a master’s degree made about $55,742 per year in Washington State.
To earn that $60,000, Dones will be tasked with performing a “landscape analysis,” followed by “framework development,” at 100 hours and 60 hours, respectively. Once those two stages are complete, they’ll spend 80 hours crafting a “final product.”
What is that product? Well, it’s a policy framework for using Medicaid money to help with housing, an area in which Dones has significant expertise. Under Medicaid’s 1115 waiver, states are allowed to use Medicaid money for alternative treatment options to the ones explicitly allowed by the federal government, provided that community groups demonstrate how these alternatives will improve the health of Medicaid recipients.
“In recognition of their stature as a nationally respected expert in this field, the City in collaboration with King County elected to initiate a contract with Gray Sky Policy LLC (Marc Dones, President) following Marc’s departure from the KCRHA for completion of essential research and recommendations within this specific policy focus,” wrote HSD spokesperson Kevin Mundt, in an email responding to Real Change’s public records request.
The framework will include, “[r]ecommendations that fully [leverage] federal funding streams to maximize the region’s resources available to address homelessness,” as well as, “[o]perational recommendations specific to Seattle and in support of our regional approach to addressing homelessness across King County.”
Under the contract, Dones will be paid for 20 hours, or $5,000, for “Preliminary research and scoping discussions with the [the] Mayor’s Office and other leadership.” They will also be paid for another 10 hours, or $2,500, of time spent on “[d]elivery of a project timeline for policy framework.” Another 10 hours and $2,500 will be devoted to “check-in meetings.”
Apropos of nothing, but in our industry, when you pitch a freelance piece, you don’t get paid for coming up with the idea. Musings from a salty, poor journalist aside, getting the federal government involved in funding efforts to end homelessness locally is a noble goal. But do we need to issue a $60,000 severance package — the human services equivalent of a golden parachute — to do it?
Read more of the July 26-Aug. 1, 2023 issue.