- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday he “strongly” supports the director of the city’s 911 communications center, amid complaints about his job performance.

“Under the leadership of [E.] Mike Latessa, we have built an organization with, I think, some really spectacular results in terms of response times, and I commend him for that,” he said. “I support Mike Latessa and what he’s doing — strongly.”

Communication center employees say Mr. Latessa has created a hostile work environment that has contributed to a recent series of dispatcher mistakes.

He is expected to address the agency’s performance, the complaints and other labor issues at an oversight hearing today before the D.C. Council’s Judiciary Committee.

There is no national standard for dispatcher accuracy on emergency calls.

However, Mr. Latessa says the accuracy rate for the District is 99.9 percent since Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year.

He said there were no reported errors in the first quarter of the year but four in the last week of February.

It is not clear whether any of the incidents are the same ones reported Monday by The Washington Times.

According to D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department records obtained by The Times, dispatchers gave inaccurate or incomplete information to emergency workers on Jan. 11, Feb. 10, Feb. 20 and Feb. 21.

Department records also showed another incident Friday in which dispatchers sent an emergency crew to a water leak at 641 Sixth St. SE. The correct address was 641 46th St. SE. The call was dispatched at 10:21 p.m., but the first crew did not arrive at the correct address until 10:50 p.m.

Fire department spokesman Alan Etter said officials are investigating the incident.

“Luckily, there were no dire consequences that resulted from this,” he said. “Had this been a medical emergency or a fire where an immediate response was necessary, it could have been far worse.”

Unions officials representing call takers and dispatchers say they will present the D.C. Council with a letter of no confidence for Mr. Latessa. They say the letter has signatures from a majority of the agency’s roughly 220 employees.

Employees say Mr. Latessa has ignored personnel rules and subjected them to demeaning, insensitive and even racist insults.

“I would hope that Mr. Latessa would be replaced or that he be forced to comply with city policies and union rules,” said Michael Patterson, first vice president of the National Association of Government Employees Local R3-05, which represents the majority of call-center employees.

Mr. Patterson said statistics showing fewer dropped calls and faster pickup times at the call center are not the work of Mr. Latessa. They are the result of aggressive hiring in June 2003 to fully staff the call center after a fatal fire in Dupont Circle revealed problems within the agency.

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