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Former D.C. deputy mayor defends having Va. home: ‘I geo bachelored’

Sep 05, 2023

A D.C. deputy mayor — who resigned this week after a personal trainer accused him of assault and a resulting police statement triggered questions about whether he was living in D.C. — defended his living arrangement, saying in an interview that he was staying part time with a friend to meet the requirement that high-level officials live within city limits.

Chris Geldart, who stepped down Wednesday as D.C. deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said he was "geo bacheloring" — a term used in military circles to describe an arrangement where service members live apart from their families, often with other military personnel. Geldart, a former Marine, said he stayed part time with his family in Falls Church, Va., and part time with a friend and former colleague in Washington.

"I spent nights in the city when I needed to, and I spent nights at home," he said in an interview with The Washington Post. "That is what I did. I geo bachelored."

Geldart went on leave earlier this month after a personal trainer publicly accused the then-deputy mayor of grabbing him by the neck in a parking lot of a Gold's Gym in Arlington, Va. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) initially downplayed the incident — saying in a statement that "it sounds like something that happens to a lot of people." But her tone shifted days later as reporters raised questions about a police statement that listed Geldart's residency as being in Virginia.

In the interview with The Post, Geldart said that he was "embarrassed" about his behavior outside of the Gold's Gym but declined to discuss the matter because of the pending criminal charge. An arraignment hearing is scheduled for Monday in the case. Geldart also declined to discuss conversations he had with city officials leading up to his resignation.

Under D.C. code, high-level appointees to the executive branch must be city residents within 180 days of appointment and remain so during their time in office. The police statement on the assault allegation said Geldart lived in Falls Church.

Chris Geldart, top D.C. public safety official, out of job after assault claim

The chorus of reporters asking about Geldart's residency in the District grew louder with each day that followed the assault accusation, and by Oct. 6, D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) was among those with questions.

That afternoon, she sent a request for information on the matter to E. Lindsey Maxwell II, the interim director at the city's Department of Human Resources, asking questions including how officials determine an employee's "true place of residence," if a worker has homes inside and outside the District. Silverman's office said it had not received a reply to the questions by Friday evening.

As chair of the council's labor committee, Silverman said she has pushed in recent years to boost the number of those on the city's workforce who are D.C. residents — especially D.C. police employees and fire and EMS workers — because living in the city helps to integrate city employees with the communities they serve.

"Geldart was overseeing public safety agencies., like D.C. police, fire and EMS. We want those responders to live in the city, and we’ve struggled with that," Silverman said. "If we have the deputy mayor in Falls Church, it sends a message that residency isn't important. And I don't think that's the message we want to send."

Bowser announced at a news conference that she had accepted Geldart's resignation Wednesday, saying "all of the questions being raised are distracting from his job and my job." She said at the news conference that she was aware that Geldart had a home in Virginia, where his family lived, but expected her cabinet members to be "bona fide" residents of the city.

Asked Friday evening if Geldart had disclosed the geo bachelor arrangement — and whether it meets the spirit of the residency requirement — Bowser's office said it had no further comment.

Geldart said his family first rented a home in Falls Church in 2017 after he resigned from his position at the helm of D.C.'s homeland security agency amid an inspector general's allegations, including that he used the office to benefit a "close personal acquaintance." The city's ethics board ultimately found insufficient evidence to establish that a violation had occurred.

When he returned to city leadership two years later — first as director of the Department of Public Works before being hired as deputy mayor — Geldart said he was about halfway through a lease in Virginia. He said he and his wife decided to keep the house to avoid breaking the lease. Geldart said he opted to rent an apartment along the Capitol Riverfront with his friend, a former staffer who traveled to the West Coast frequently for work and had a spare bedroom.

Geldart said he paid part of the rent — although declined to say how much — and utilities for the apartment, as well as city taxes. He also said he submitted all the required documentation for residency and — on several occasions — told colleagues that he had to pick up his children and take them to Falls Church.

"I will say there are times when I spend a heck of a lot more time in the apartment than other times," the former deputy mayor said. "But I did have the apartment. I did pay the taxes. I did the utilities. I did pay my rent. I did everything I was supposed to do."

Geldart said his wife re-signed the lease in mid-2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, he said, his wife was living with his children on the West Coast because of her work requirements and to be close to relatives. Geldart said he was in D.C. that year — spending most nights at the city apartment — to work long days to help lead the city's response to the pandemic.

His family's latest lease in Falls Church was up in April. He said they had been renting the home month-to-month since then, looking to move to a permanent home in the District.

Some city council members said they were sympathetic to his family obligations. But they were not swayed by his claim of a geo bachelor arrangement.

"From a residency perspective, whether it's this government official or any, the expectation is that you reside in the District of Columbia," said D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), the chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. "The spirit and intent of the law and requirement is that it is your primary residence. It's where you live."

"It's 20 minutes away," Silverman said of Falls Church. "It's hard to believe you’re not just going to hop on Route 66 and go home every night. This is not a second home in Rehoboth Beach you spend some summer weekends at."

Now that Geldart is out of his job, it is unclear whether he will make a permanent move to the nation's capital.

"We are evaluating now what the next steps are for our family," he said in a statement.