911 District ends 'chat' probe that fired dispatcher, suspended 10
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Teresa McIntosh confirms that she used rough language in the chat messages that, directors say, got her fired as a dispatcher for the Hamilton County 911 Emergency Communications District.
"I'd probably wash my kids' mouths out with soap if they used it," she says. "But they're not surprised on any given day what comes out of my mouth."
"I was surprised that any of our employees would engage in that type of conversations," District Director John Stuermer says. "It was conduct that is unbecoming in any professional business."
The District fired McIntosh, and suspended ten more dispatchers anywhere from three to 28 days, based on a review of chat-logs from March-October 2011.
The investigation launched after Supervisor Angel Geoghagen received a complaint from Operations Director Jeff Carney October 5, after he'd reviewed that day's chat logs.
"It is exactly a way of venting," McIntosh says. "Especially if you're tied to your seat three hours before you can go move."
Channel 3 filed an Open Records request in late-April after learning that the investigation had concluded. The District released the transcripts, 8,764 pages of chat logs, this week.
They reveal that 'venting' included a conversation last May 13, in which one male dispatcher advises another that he could avoid difficulties with women if he would "meet with all your B-tch-s to keep them in line. Keep your pimp hand strong."
"There is not a written policy that specifically governs (computer) chat," Stuermer says. "But they knew, or should have known, what our Code of Conduct says about what's inappropriate (to discuss)."
Among the forbidden topics is the discussion of calls or callers for service.
But last May 19, one dispatcher texted another that she wanted to tell a confused, but apparently chatty caller "don't you know b-tch? Shut the f--- up and answer the question. Dumb a-- hick."
Last May 14 McIntosh herself learn that Red Bank police had caught a "s---head purse snatcher. They should beat his a--."
We asked McIntosh if she'd ever criticized a co-worker or supervisor.
"We all did," she says. "We all did."
Geoghagan report, dated March 16, states that such criticism sparked the investigation itself.
Our review of the chat logs reveals that dispatchers would complain about other dispatchers' complaints.
"I hate sitting by her," wrote one dispatcher August 16. "I tried to tell her to shut up nicely…then it was…shut the f—up!"
Another made racial references last May 16: "What the f---? I hate that black b--ch!"
Two days later, McIntosh authored a chat message alleging that racial preference and a sexual relationship between a manager and supervisor protected that supervisor from repercussions.
"You can't discipline somebody you slept with," she wrote, adding that she knew of a coworker who'd kept "documentation of them having sex in the building."
"Some people may have addressed that with a supervisor," McIntosh says. "And they were told, mind your own business, do your job."
"The chat box is not the place for it," Stuermer says. "Nothing has come to our attention and we would not tolerate that."
Stuermer also says that no issue raised in the content of the messages themselves, warrants further investigation or review.
"This did not affect our ability to do our jobs. But it's difficult for me, because we have a number of high quality employees in this District," he says. "And it tarnishes the reputation that they have."
Several of the ten suspended are among the District's more seasoned dispatchers. Several have received commendations.
Suspended 3 days: Unbecoming Conduct, Misuse of District Equipment
- Brooke Honeycutt
Suspended 5 days: Unbecoming Conduct, Misuse of District equipment
- George Ball
- Dusty Brock
- John Hodges
- Bridgette Swafford
Suspended 8 days: Unbecoming Conduct, Misuse of District Equipment
- A.J. Bullard
Suspended 10 days: Courtesy, Insubordination, Compliance, Ridicule, Conduct, Misuse
- Ruth Flemister
Suspended 20 days: Conduct, Misuse, Probation and Diversity Training
- David Vaught
Suspended 28 days: Multiple Violations, Probation & Diversity Training
- Marilyn Jones (successfully appealed termination)
- David Stynchcombe
McIntosh was fired for violating rules of courtesy, insubordination, failure to comply with rules and procedures, criticizing the District, unbecoming conduct and misusing District equipment.
"My plate is too full to deal with their arrogance," she says. "I'm probably done in law enforcement or emergency response."
"But as far as the chat, I go to bed at night and I sleep with a clear conscience, and I sleep with a clear heart."
- 05/15/2012: ONLY ON 3: Fired dispatcher defends 'chats' on 911 equipment
- 04/24/2012: 911 dispatchers face discipline, firing for 'inappropriate' instant-messaging
- 04/25/2012: At least 2 dispatchers fired in probe of 911 Center messaging
- 04/26/2012: 911 managers confirm firings, suspensions
- 04/27/2012: 911 dispatchers face discipline, firing for 'inappropriate' instant-messaging