The Washington Post

Acting head of city’s new Department of Buildings says he will step down

Before leading budding agency, Ernest Chrappah directed its predecesso­r


Ernest Chrappah, the acting director of the city’s new Department of Buildings, wrote to the agency’s staff Friday that he plans to leave his post at an unspecifie­d future date, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by The Washington Post.

Chrappah’s announceme­nt means that D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) will need to nominate a new director to lead the DOB — which began its operations in October along with its sister agency, the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection.

Over objections from the mayor, the D.C. Council voted to split up the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs in late 2020 in hopes of improving and simplifyin­g the sprawling former agency’s duties, which include enforcing compliance with the city’s building code.

In September, one day before the split, Bowser announced that she planned to nominate Chrappah, who had led DCRA since 2018, as the acting director of the new DOB. That announceme­nt rankled D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), who blamed Chrappah, in part, for many of the complaints that DCRA had faced over the years related to issues such as poorly regulated constructi­on projects and problemati­c vacant properties.

But on Friday, just over a week after he was taken to task by Mendelson and dozens of frustrated residents at a council hearing intended to assess the DOB’S performanc­e, Chrappah told his staff that he had notified the mayor about his “intention to leave DOB,” adding that “the search for a new director is underway.”

Bowser’s nomination of Chrappah to lead the DOB would have eventually required confirmati­on by the D.C. Council. Chrappah did not respond to a message seeking comment. A spokeswoma­n for Bowser provided a copy of Chrappah’s letter but did not offer additional comment about his impending departure.

By Friday afternoon, Bowser’s administra­tion had posted the job to its online portal for vacant positions in the mayor’s cabinet.

“While my departure date is not set, as I want to ensure a smooth transition, I want you to hear this from me directly,” Chrappah wrote, while listing some of the agency’s recent accomplish­ments.

“To stand up the DOB this past year, in particular, has required a great investment of time, energy and dedication from each of you, and I thank you very much for being on this journey with me.”

At last week’s hearing, many residents and housing advocates who testified about DOB detailed issues with communicat­ion and inconsiste­nt constructi­on oversight, echoing complaints over the years about DCRA.

While Chrappah said at the hearing that he was frustrated on behalf of those who felt that there has not been tangible progress at the DOB, he highlighte­d steps the new agency was taking to address issues that were discussed. Splitting up an agency of DCRA’S size was no small feat and would require continued work throughout the year, he said.

Chrappah’s letter did not specify why he was leaving the agency — or what he might do next. Before joining DCRA, he held leadership positions at D.C. agencies including the Department of For-hire Vehicles and the Child and Family Services Agency.

“While our paths may soon diverge, our futures are bright,” Chrappah wrote to his staff. “For now, I will continue to advance our work, challenge the status quo, and support each of you as you serve the District.”

“To stand up the DOB this past year, . . . has required a great investment of time, energy and dedication from each of you, and I thank you very much for being on this journey with me.” Ernest Chrappah, acting director of the Department of Buildings

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