City Says 911 Boss Used Sexist Remarks

The man tapped to fix the Albuquerque Police Department's 911 center has been suspended following a city investigation that found he made insulting remarks toward women and repeatedly asked a dispatcher out on dates.

Michael Padilla, who is also the city's 311 general manager, was banned from the 911 operation for nearly a month while the investigation was conducted in March.

He has since been allowed to resume some duties, but can't go into the 911 center without a police escort. 

Padilla has received a 30-day suspension. He will have to serve five of those days when "it's convenient to the city." The rest of the suspension will be forgotten if he behaves, City Attorney Bob White said.

Padilla said Tuesday that he felt his suspension was inappropriate and the result of a group of supervisors resistant to change and who filed false accusations against him.

He said every accusation made was false.

"I am appalled that I was accused of these things," Padilla said. "There is a team of folks here who have worked here a long time who are circling the wagons."

Padilla still oversees the 311 center, which answers calls for information about city government.  

In January, Mayor Martin Chávez asked Padilla to overhaul the city's 911 center in six months with the goal of reducing the time it takes to answer calls.  

Ten supervisors, including 911 director Pauline Sanchez filed a complaint with the city's Employee Equity Office claiming Padilla had created a hostile work environment.  

A three-week investigation conducted by the office determined Padilla told some of the center's employees that "it may be 2006 out here, but in my house, it's 1969 and the women make tortillas, take care of the kids and clean the house."   

"The 'women staying home' remark is the more egregious in that it directly applies to the almost entirely female workplace he was managing," according to a report prepared by the city's Employee Equity Office. "Such remarks contribute to a hostile work environment."  

The investigation concluded Padilla repeatedly called the center's assistant director "darlin" and asked one of the dispatchers out on a date eight times before he was assigned his 911 role. 

City investigators couldn't substantiate several other claims the group made about Padilla.  

Contacted Wednesday in Washington, D.C., Chávez said he didn't know whether Padilla is the "right guy" to continue in the role of fixing 911.

The mayor did say the plans Padilla has come up with needed to be implemented.  

"The comments that have been alleged to have been made I find to be deeply offensive and, quite frankly, outrageous in this day and age," Chávez said. "In terms of 911, I don't have any doubt that his ideas are the right ideas. I don't know if Mr. Padilla is the guy that will continue there, but his ideas will."  

In the meantime, Padilla is no longer allowed to make regular visits to the center, and when he does go he must be in the presence of a police captain who has since been placed in charge of implementing Padilla's plans and managing the 911 center.   

Sanchez and her assistant director have been temporarily reassigned to other positions.  

The 911 communications center has been plagued with problems. It has not been fully staffed, and a couple of high-profile cases have landed the city in litigation.  

Chavez appointed Padilla to change things due in part to the success he had building the city's 311 center.  

In a January news conference, Padilla announced a plan to reduce the time it takes dispatchers to answer calls by changing shifts, training, organizational structure, overall politeness of operators and how desks are arranged.   

Padilla has had a successful career building call centers.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

By T.J. Wilham
Copyright © 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer