After tolerating Phoenix’s former chief spokesman’s slurs against co-workers for 13 years, David J. Ramirez, 46, was finally demoted — to a lesser job with a mere $81,245 salary. Although he was frequently admonished for his crude vulgarities, he was never formally disciplined. Neither was his offensive behavior noted in his personnel file. In fact, he was rewarded with a fat paycheck of $105,368 annually and also received a monthly ‘$100 communications allowance’ and a monthly $435 car allowance.
Toni Maccarone, Ramirez’s former supervisor, who is now Mayor Phil Gordon’s chief-of-staff, admitted the ongoing problem was so pervasive, “I have stopped correcting him.”
Public records obtained by the Arizona Republic, including interviews with Maccarone, Ramirez and 12 other employees, show supervisors allowed the boorish behavior to continue unchecked until it triggered an investigation spanning four city departments, including the Mayor’s Office.
In a letter to Personnel Director Janet Smith, Ramirez appeared to believe sexist and racist comments and disparaging remarks about Mormons and Jews were acceptable and he was untouchable.
“The disturbing part of the complaints is that I and other department employees have engaged in similar banter throughout my employment with the city without any warning that such banter was unacceptable,” Ramirez wrote. “Much of this banter was done in front of other managers including the department director.”
City Manager Frank Fairbanks rejected Ramirez’s assertion that such behavior was pervasive throughout the 14,000-employee organization. “The people that work for the city of Phoenix don’t talk that way. It is unacceptable, we won’t accept it, and people are being severely disciplined,” said Fairbanks, adding that he planned to look into whether Maccarone had taken appropriate action.
Fairbanks said the city had considered firing Ramirez, but the City Attorney’s Office was uncertain whether that decision would be upheld if the 13-year employee sued Phoenix or appealed to a city disciplinary board. “This was a very, very severe punishment,” Fairbanks said.
A two-week suspension and “very, very severe” punishing salary of $81,245 would appeal to a lot of people, Mr. Fairbanks.