Seattle Times staff reporter
The director of King County’s coordinating agency for homelessness is on paid leave following a dancer’s strip show at the agency’s annual conference on Monday.
Performer Beyoncé Black St. James danced topless in a sheer bodysuit, gave lap dances and kissed attendees, according to a staffer at a local housing nonprofit who attended the conference in South Seattle.
Kira Zylstra, organizer of the conference at South Seattle College, has been placed on leave as of Thursday, according to Denise Rothleutner, chief of staff for the King County Department of Community and Human Services.
The department declined to comment further because of the active investigation, Rothleutner said in the email. Zylstra was not available for comment. Her suspension was first reported by journalist Erica C. Barnett on her website.
Zylstra has led All Home, King County’s coordinating agency homeless services, since January 2018. But her job could soon become obsolete as Seattle and King County prepare to replace All Home, which has been criticized as weak and ineffective, with a new regional authority on homelessness. Zylstra was paid about $123,000 a year, according to a county spokesperson.
The performance was in the same room as a catered lunch at All Home’s annual conference, this year at South Seattle College with the theme of “Decolonizing our Collective Work.”
The only note on the agenda was “Lunch with Cultural Presentation,” and there was no other warning or announcement about the nature of the performance, according to the staffer, who was surprised but not uncomfortable with the performance.
In a short video, St. James, a Spokane-based entertainer who identifies as a trans woman on her Facebook page, can be seen doing high kicks in a revealing bodysuit and with silver pasties.
“No one expected it,” the staffer said. “So I think some people felt uncomfortable.” The first person St. James kissed seemed surprised, according to the staffer, but the ones following seemed more enthusiastic.