Tucson 911 operators speak out on system troubles
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - "It's nerve-wracking and it's upsetting when you don't know if the phone system is going to fail you."
That's what Tucson 911 operators Vicki Jonda says about Tucson new, but trouble plagued 911 system.
Monday, several operators went public about the problems with a brand new 911 system.
Tuesday Tucson's civil service commission will consider the case of a fired 911 operator trying to get his job back.
The Communications Workers Union says he was fired for copying documents related to 911 troubles to share with city council members.
Monday, other operators went public. They say they never leaked information to reporters, but now they're up front about speaking out.
Up to now, 911 workers have counted on Councilmember Steve Kozachik to convey their hopes for a fix to the new system's problems. Now five of them are going public, even though they say supervisors told them to clam up, and tolerated a witch hunt for anyone who'd talk.
911 operator Shari Williams said: "Somebody confided in me that when they were having a conversation with a co-worker, the co-worker indicated she had her suspicions of who was talking to the media and when the co-worker said who do you think, my name was one of three."
But Councilmember Kozachik says bosses had better not lean on anyone trying to make the system work better.
He says, "If the harassment and unhealthy work environment continues down there, I will guarantee Mr. Letcher, Mr. Lewis and Mr. Twombly that all hell is gonna break loose. I don't want to hear of one of these people getting harassed after we walk out of there today for having the guts to stand up and speak to you people about what's going on down there."
Kozachik has already said he's sent the City Manager and the city attorney copies of the state law that protects whistleblowers----twice.
Operators watched their boss, General Services director Ron Lewis tell City Council most of the problems were operator error. They say that was the catch-all for almost any problem they couldn't explain.
Operators say they were told to log any unexplained troubles as "Code 17" and later found "Code 17" was the tag for operator errors.
Shari Williams was apparently watching KGUN9 when she heard Qwest downplay the problems.
"The interviewer was asking was it Qwest's stance that those two issues are not technological but administrative or procedural and he said yes."
That was what Qwest spokesperson Mark Molzin told KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith August 9th.
Smith asked: "Would these procedural and administrative issues explain things like, the dropped calls and the issue with the identifiers not appearing on screen as expected?"
Molzin: "Yes they would."
Smith: "That's an administrative and not a technical issue?"
Molzin: "These are administrative and procedural issues."
Monday, 911 operator Roberta Vance said: "I think the public has a right to know we have some issues and we're doing the best we can and to please be understanding. If we can operate with the public and have the community be aware and follow us and support us, I think we're gonna be more successful. Let's all be honest and let's fix it. That's all we want."