When Dave Ramirez was ousted from his post as acting director of public information for the city of Phoenix a month ago, it raised a lot of questions among politicos and observers in the Valley of the Sun.
Why, after thirteen years of service, was Ramirez placed on administrative leave and subsequently demoted so precipitously? Rumors that sexual harrassment was involved circulated around, but there was no official word for some time.
Then, just about a week ago, the findings of the city’s Equal Opportunity Department, who investigated the matter, were released to the press. The report details the allegations against Ramirez, and it is some weird, wild stuff.
For whatever reason, the major news outlets chose not to run with the full story. Sarah Fenske, writing for the New Times’ Valley Fever blog, uncharacteristically pulled her punches, seeming almost apologetic about having to write the story at all. The allegations were given two sentences, while note was made that the charges “came as a shock to many reporters who’ve worked with Ramirez. He’s been with the city 13 years and seemed well-liked by coworkers.” Fenske then gave most of the remaining paragraphs to Ramirez’s defense of himself.
The Arizona Republic decided not to run the details either, perhaps in part not wanting to shock the delicate sensibilities of its readership, or perhaps because Ramirez was formerly a reporter there.
Whatever their reasons, these papers and the television stations have denied Phoenicians the full picture of this tale. Fortunately, The National Razor does not share their compunctions, especially when a public servant who was making in the six-figures is involved.
Here, for the first time, unexpurgated, is the summary of allegations against former city PIO Dave Ramirez, from the EOD’s report:
“Allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior by Mr. Ramirez include, but are not limited to, the allegation that he told a subordinate female employee that he ‘masturbated’ to her Facebook picture; that he told a subordinate female employee that his wife gave him a ‘blow job’; that he referred to a subordinate employee as a ‘Jewish bastard’ and referred to Jewish people as ‘cheap’; that he identified and referred to a male subordinate as ‘gay’; that he discussed masturbation and the size of his penis with his staff; that he asked a subordinate employe if he liked to be with ‘Black guys given the girth of their penises’; that he asked a male intern how he ‘liked to masturbate’; that he posted a Facebook comment to a subordinate employee saying “You know, I’m one handsome devil… Sorry if that violates one of the Mormon cannons [sic]’ and signed the comment ‘The Director.’; that he made comments regarding ‘Mormon underwear’; that he repeatedly referred to subordinate employees as ‘Baby’; that he not only engaged in inappropriate workplace behavior but he also allowed or even fostered an environment where inappropriate workplace behavior was allowed to occur.”
The report concluded that Ramirez’s behavior had grown increasingly worse, especially after he assumed the interim directorship. A former attitude of “flipness” and propensity for risque jokes transformed into a free-for-all of inappropriate and, really, just bizarre exchanges. At one point Ramirez discussed with a female employee how he doesn’t last long in bed with his wife, to whom he refers as “Babycakes;” another time he was in a worker’s car and asked if juice she had spilled near the gearshift was from someone “jacking off.”
Apparently, too, he would often talk about his penis size while doing a crotch grab to make the late MJ proud. Then he would regail his staff with the latest knee-slapper, which invariable touched on sex, religion or race, or when he was really going all three. Essentially, it seems that David Ramirez engaged in behavior that might make David Brent of the British “Office” blush.
Even more baffling, when questioned about these allegations, Ramirez, almost without fail, initially denied them but then added “if more than one person said I did it, then side with them.” According to the report, he said that or a variant of that in response to nearly every single one of the 14 allegations.
The oddest thing of all is, after all of this has come to light, Ramirez retains a job with the city. He now works as a public information officer at Sky Harbor Airport. He took all of a $19,000 pay cut and his office doesn’t have the view it once did, but that is about all the difference there is.
For anyone in position of public trust, especially someone in a supervisory capacity, a certain, very basic level of decorum is demanded. Nobody would claim that edgy joking is not a feature of most offices, maybe especially political ones, but Ramirez’s actions (most of which he ended up pretty much acknowledging) exceed any reasonable standards of acceptable behavior. Ramirez’s apparent obsession with masturbation and penis size would make workers at a factory loading dock uncomfortable, let alone interns and assistants.
While there are rumors that ulterior motives might be at play in terms of the timing of the whistleblowing, the whistle was justifiably blown. Ramirez should have been cognizant of the potential liability his actions represented, and at the very least the image problem that could arise. He was the public information director!
Given not just the outlandish nature of his behavior (which has been further independently corroborated by trusted sources outside of city hall) but also the positon he held and the damage he could have done to his office and the city, the best decision would be for the city to terminate Mr. Ramirez as an employee altogether. In the midst of the Great Recession, there are far too many jobless, qualified people out there for a boor with no sense of how his actions were being perceived to lead any public information effort on any front.