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City Call Center Manager Quits

By T.J. Wilham
Copyright 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
    Albuquerque 311 general manager Michael Padilla has resigned amid allegations that he made insulting remarks to women staffers and repeatedly asked a dispatcher out on dates, Mayor Martin Chávez told the Journal on Sunday.
    As the head of 311, Padilla was tapped by the mayor to improve the city's problem-plagued 911 center.
    His resignation will become formal today at a 10 a.m. news conference in Chávez's office.
    Interviewed Sunday, Padilla said the decision to resign was his own. He also reiterated that all of the accusations made against him are false and are motivated by members of the police department who were against changes he wanted to make to the 911 center.
    "I was railroaded. This was a hatchet job," Padilla said. "I am sick to my stomach over what has been said about me and I don't think it is worth it anymore. My name has been dragged through the streets of Albuquerque."
    Padilla will not be present at the news conference; however, a statement he prepared will be read.
    Albuquerque Police Department spokesman John Walsh said Sunday that Padilla was not an APD employee and the department could not comment on his claims.
    He added, "His work was valued and will continue to make improvements at the 911 center."
    In wake of his success at building the city's 311 call system in January, 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.
    Last month, Padilla was suspended for 30 days from both centers after 10 911 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 city investigation determined that Padilla had repeatedly asked a dispatcher out on dates and at one point told some of the women who worked at the center 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."
    Padilla said Sunday he never said any of the things he is accused of.
    Chávez told the Journal that he felt there was some resistance toward Padilla's ideas since the first day he was assigned there. But he condemned the remarks Padilla is alleged to have made.
    The mayor said all of Padilla's ideas— which include changing shifts, training, organizational structure, overall politeness of operators and how desks are arranged— will be implemented. He said he will announce today that certain senior members of his staff will be sent to the 911 center to make sure Padilla's suggestions are put into practice.
    "I will not break to the resistance," Chávez said. "Regardless of the bumps in the road, the ultimate goal is reformation of 911 and 242-COPS," the administrative phone number to reach the police department.
    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.
    Padilla told the Journal he plans to stay in Albuquerque and build a small consulting business he started. Padilla, who has worked for call centers since he was 17, has made a career of building them. The 311 system he helped inaugurate answers calls about city services and agencies, and his work was praised by Chávez and others in city government.
    Padilla said Sunday that building the 311 center was the proudest moment in his career.
    "The big mistake I made was trying to turn around 30 years of decay at 911 in six months," he said. "I uncovered some very serious errors in judgment in the operation that made everyone in the police department mad. And this is what I get."