Mayor Bowser withdraws 911 call center nominee following rare city council rebuke

Muriel Bowser
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks to members of the media about her plans, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, in Washington, after winning her third term as mayor. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Mayor Bowser withdraws 911 call center nominee following rare city council rebuke

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Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser withdrew her nominee to head the district’s 911 call center just one day before the city council was set to hold a confirmation vote, conceding to a likely rejection from lawmakers due to her candidate’s past scrutiny.

Karima Holmes, Bowser’s nominee to lead the D.C. Office of Unified Communications, faced an uphill battle to secure the Cabinet position as several city council members announced they would vote against her appointment, pointing to her past tenure as the head of the call center. Holmes led the OUC from 2015 to 2021 before stepping down amid accusations that she bungled emergency situations by struggling to locate callers.

FORMER 911 CALL CENTER HEAD WHO RESIGNED AMID SCRUTINY TO BE REAPPOINTED

“During her service to the District, she filled critical agency staffing positions and oversaw significant technology upgrades that improved residents’ customer experience. Director Holmes was the right leader at the right time for OUC,” Bowser said in a statement. “Under Director Holmes’ leadership, OUC consistently offered compassion and expertise when handling more than one million 911 calls each year — one of the highest call rates in the nation. It is with regret that we are withdrawing her nomination.”

Bowser’s withdrawal comes after several city council members publicly announced they would vote against her nomination, marking a rare break from the council’s typical practice of backing the mayor’s recommendations to lead government agencies.

Councilman Charles Allen was among the first to come out against Holmes’s nomination, pointing to recent incidents in which scrambled communications from inside the emergency call center resulted in delayed responses.

“The public and many members of the council have had concerns about the leadership and operations of the Office of Unified Communications for some time, most recently stemming from multiple incidents where errors led to delays in emergency services arriving on scene and, tragically, loss of life,” he said in a statement.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson quickly followed suit, announcing he would also vote against Holmes’s nomination.

“There has been a lot of public scrutiny with regard to the operations of the OUC and the candidate,” he said Monday.

During her previous stint as the director of the OUC, Holmes faced sharp criticism that the agency’s 911 call system fell below national standards and often had difficulty pinpointing locations to send emergency responders. These complaints led to an audit by the city, which found several areas that required improvement.

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Dispatchers would often send responders to incorrect locations, causing confusion and delays, the 114-page audit alleged. The report also found that dispatch times for high-priority calls were inconsistent throughout the district, with some areas reporting 20% slower response times than others.

Bowser announced the city government could conduct a nationwide search to find another OUC director, with Holmes remaining in the position “in an interim capacity” for the next 60 days.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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