Whistleblower lawsuit against mayor claims more DC 911 issues than previously known

Former interim director says she was fired because Mayor Bowser didn't like her addressing and sharing repeated 911 mistakes and staffing challenges

Former DC 911 interim director Cleo Subido

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A former interim DC 911 director says the agency provided “inaccurate and inflated” data to the mayor and DC Council, grossly mishandled abandoned 911 calls, failed to properly track complaints, improperly denied 80 percent of FOIA requests and made many more address mistakes than were being reported. According to Cleo Subido, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser fired her because Subido tried to solve these and many other serious problems plaguing DC 911.

Subido says her efforts at reforming the Office of Unified Communications during the 14 months she ran the agency were met with resistance from her bosses. The lawsuit says, “Deputy Mayor (Chris) Geldart warned Ms. Subido to tread carefully and not pursue her concerns as it would upset Mayor Bowser and would likely result in Mayor Bowser firing Ms. Subido.”

While STATter911 has chronicled many instances of OUC dispatching DC Fire & EMS to the wrong address over the last three years, the lawsuit indicates the situation is worse than we’ve reported:

Errors resulted from OUC’s lack of staffing and insufficient oversight. In addition to the high-profile errors discussed above where fatalities were involved, Ms. Subido realized that similar errors were being made on a daily basis. In fact, Ms. Subido documented at least 10 instances in one day where OUC sent responders to the wrong address.

According to the lawsuit, Mayor Bowser was unhappy with the 2021 audit of OUC ordered by the Office of the DC Auditor. Auditor Kathy Patterson praised Subido’s cooperation during the audit. That cooperation apparently didn’t help in Subido’s unsuccessful efforts to be appointed the agency’s director.

When Ms. Subido informed the Deputy Mayor that she was giving the auditors free reign, he reiterated to her that the Mayor’s office was unhappy that the audit was being conducted.

In March of 2022, former OUC director Karima Holmes was brought back to run OUC. Subido then took a job at DC Fire & EMS where she worked as a liaison between the two agencies. This included uncovering and attempting to investigate some of OUC’s mistakes.

Ultimately, Ms. Subido met with Chief Donnelly and discussed her frustration with OUC’s failure to adequately respond to and address the inexcusable errors that continued. During the meeting, Chief Donnelly stated that, during a meeting with Mayor Bowser, she threateningly told him that FEMS employees, including Ms. Subido, should not make complaints about OUC. Chief Donnelly suggested that, in light of the Mayor’s warning, and because Ms. Subido’s efforts to raise the continuing failures of OUC were futile in any event, Ms. Subido cease her efforts and stop disclosing, attempting to address, and drawing attention to OUC’s continuing failures.

Subido was first suspended and then fired from her fire department position. The lawsuit says that at the time of the suspension Subido was told she was under investigation by OUC. No specific reason has been given by the Bowser administration for that investigation or Sudido’s firing. In an effort to deny Subido unemployment benefits the suit says the city made the claim Subido was fired for misconduct but then failed to prove that claim. According to the lawsuit, because of that, unemployment benefits were approved.

The DC Office of Unemployment Compensation Benefits found that Defendants “did not provide proof of misconduct” and provided no evidence that Ms. Subido “engaged in misconduct.”

You can read the entire lawsuit here.

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