NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - The case is "not closed" for the Norfolk 911 dispatcher who is now fired for a controversial comment on Facebook. Wednesday Jessica Camarillo talked only to WAVY.com about her dismissal and why she now has a lawyer by her side.
Camarillo may be fired, but that may not be the final word on her employment with the City of Norfolk. She made a self-admitted thoughtless post on Facebook from her home, while off duty. Her comment addressed a police-involved shooting, saying police should sue the family of the man they ended up killing.
In July Camarillo apologized for that: "I want to apologize for the hurt I've caused."
Now she's fighting against her dismissal because of the post with one of the area's top attorneys in labor disputes.
"I have had to apply for assistance. I was denied unemployment because the [City of Norfolk] fought that also. I'm moving, and it's been hard," Camarillo told WAVY.com Wednesday while choking back tears.
Camarillo's attorney Michael Imprevento told WAVY.com he's believes his client was retaliated against for protected speech.
"I believe it is a serious issue here," he said. "I'm very concerned with an ocean of procedural miscues by the City in her case. They would not allow any legal representation or any representation at the pre-termination hearing, which is very important."
Camarillo's union representative Mike McKenna was kicked out of the City's investigative hearing -- the pre-termination hearing Imprevento spoke of. Camarillo was forced to appear alone.
"He showed up, and they wouldn't' let him in," Imprevento said. "That is incompetence at a level I almost find unbelievable. She is allowed to have a representative there."
The City of Norfolk told Camarillo policy does not require her to have representation, but as WAVY.com uncovered there's nothing in the City's policy forbidding representation either.
Imprevento thinks politics played a role in Camarillo's hasty firing.
"I would like to find out in the grievance process if the Norfolk City Council interfered with this. We want to know whether any city council members demanded this action," Imprevento said.
The City of Norfolk also does not have a Social Media Policy to apply to the controversial Facebook post.
"First of all there is no specific Norfolk City Social Media Policy, and quite frankly I find that difficult to understand in a modern era ... because most people in a Facebook world know that is a protected area for them to express what they want to express on their own time," Imprevento said.
WAVY.com called the City of Norfolk for comment about the lack of a social media policy, but because this is a personnel issue, City Spokesperson Lori Crouch said there would be no comment from Norfolk.
The city also failed to inform Camarillo of her firing within the policy guidelines. Imprevento said the City missed that deadline by six days.
"They delivered the decision to her late, and we are going to do everything in our power to challenge it,"
Camarillo's case will likely go to a Grievance Hearing, and the panel will be chaired by an attorney whom Imprevento hopes may better understand the issues and reinstate Camarillo.
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