NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - A Norfolk 911 dispatcher's controversial reaction to a police-involved shooting became a viral Facebook post that now has her in hot water.
In the post, Jessica Camarillo said Omar Johnson's family should pay back the City of Norfolk for costs associated with his death.
Monday, Camarillo apologized publicly for the post during an interview with WAVY.com. Now she fears she may lose her job over the admitted mistake.
On July 3, Camarillo was forced to appear without representation at an investigative hearing attended by four city staff workers. The meeting inside the Human Resources Training and Development Office on Main Street did not go well for Camarillo. Now she and her union representatives are wondering whether her protected rights to due process were violated.
"How do I put this in words? I knew I was already scared," Camarillo said about the hearing. "I knew I had lost even before it started. I knew I was done for. I knew it. I didn't have anyone with me. I knew I was done."
Camarillo's union representative Mike McKenna did show up for the hearing, but wasn't allowed inside.
"This woman met me outside and said I couldn't come in," said McKenna. "I said 'Why not?' She said I had to be an attorney, and I said "since when is that? I've sat in on several of these panels.' She said 'we re-read the policy and it says you can't come in'."
What McKenna was told is untrue. Norfolk City Policy 8.3, which governs the investigative hearing process , says nothing about representation being limited to attorneys.
"Every investigative hearing I have been a part of has been allowed to have a representative," said Jane Bethel, another union representative of Camarillo.
Norfolk Human Resources Director Capri Stanley was not at the hearing, but sent her Human Resources Analyst Carolyn Tanner. Tanner was the person that barred McKenna from the hearing.
Camarillo's supervisor, Norfolk 911 Director James Redick, and his assistant Tony Castillo were at the hearing. Assistant City Attorney Andrew Fox was the only attorney in the room. Camarillo said she felt outnumbered.
"Very much so -- all those suits sitting around, and I don't have anybody there with me?", she said.
Bethel wasn't able to make the hearing because of the short, two-day notice Norfolk gave Camarillo.
"She should have asked for a continuance," said Bethel. "She could have had it. It was within her right, but employees don't know this policy inside and out, and that's why they need a representative with them."
WAVY.com visited the Human Resources Office for a comment, but no one would respond.
Norfolk City Spokeswoman Lori Crouch was called and gave a statement confirming the Policy 8.3 "Disciplinary Rules" govern investigative hearings.
"The hearing is not adversarial in nature," Crouch wrote. "An employee is not required to have representation."
Camarillo says differently.
"'We're not biased,' that's what [Tanner] kept saying, 'We are unbiased,' even though she drilled me ... it was biased," Camarillo said.
"They say the process is unbiased, but the first thing they did was turn away her representative, which doesn't sound very unbiased to me," Bethel said.
In addition, Policy 8.3 says nothing about representation -- for or against.
"There's nothing that requires her to have representation, but nothing prevents her either, and she really should have had representation at that meeting," Bethel said.
Crouch said an employee can have a witness, but only if the person has direct knowledge of the issue being discussed at the hearing. However, the policy doesn't support that.
"It was very unfair, very unfair because I am already emotional during all of this," Camarillo said. "I am going to miss half the things they are saying because of my emotions."
Camarillo can't afford a lawyer because she's been suspended without pay for about a month now. The only lawyer in the room was the City's Andrew Fox, who had no comment for WAVY.com about the hearing.
Camarillo also said that when she tried to ask her supervisor, Redick, a question during the hearing, she was "shut up."
"So when I asked Mr. Redick a question and said 'why don't you stand up for me and say something about my job performance?' [Tanner] told me I couldn't ask questions," Camarillo said.
Nothing in Policy 8.3 prohibits Camarillo from asking questions during a hearing.
Camarillo and her representatives argue the City of Norfolk is in violation of its own policy, and in turn, could be in violation of constitutional due process protections in the United State Constitution.
"It does seem like they are trying to terminate her, and doing everything they can to do that," Bethel said. "When they deny her representation at an important hearing like that ... It does deny her due process for sure."
Camarillo is fighting to keep her job and closes with this: "I love my job. I do apologize for making the City look bad. I really apologize [to the Johnson family],
and it won't happen again."
Norfolk Human Resources has 10 days to get a recommendation about Camarillo's employment status to City Manager Marcus Jones who then will have 10 days to make his final decision.
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