WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — The interim director of DC’s 911 call center is leaving her post next week, while the Bowser administration hasn’t named a replacement to run one of the most critical agencies in the District.
Sources told DC News Now that Karima Holmes’ last day will be Feb. 10, five days beyond the 60 days she agreed to stay on after her nomination was pulled by the mayor in December given that council members blamed her for lapses and decisions that even resulted in deaths.
The Bowser administration has conducted several months of searches that led to Holmes being rehired to lead the agency that handles well over a million calls per year on a temporary basis. But District officials have struggled to find a replacement.
Bowser and even Police Chief Robert Contee made their push for Holmes to be the permanent director and called on the council to give her a fair hearing. But key council members including Chairman Phil Mendelson said her nomination would not be approved.
They based their concerns on a scathing DC Auditor Report that blamed Holmes for several leadership failures.
Holmes, who could not be reached for comment, held the position from 2016 to 2021 before coming back to serve on an interim basis last March.
A mayoral spokeswoman said the administration would have an update soon but declined further comment.
The audit put the blame for problems at the call center squarely on management led by Holmes. It said that calls were misdirected, paramedics were sent to the wrong places and leadership mistakes led to people’s deaths.
Holmes fiercely defended her record in an exclusive interview with DC News Now in December, the day Bowser pulled her nomination in an email the day before the council was scheduled to vote to reject making the post permanent.
In the interview, Holmes talked about the challenges of finding another director before she returned to the post.
“I had heard that the agency was quite frankly dwindling and I mean in staffing. It was a toxic environment and there was a 13-month search. There was a head hunter that searched for an executive to come run this agency and it hadn’t been filled,” Holmes said at the time.
Holmes during the interview implored council members to see the full picture beyond “perceptions” based on a 2021 DC auditor’s report.
But more problems happened during Holmes’ interim tenure, including the death of a three-month-old baby due to a botched and dismissed 911 call. Holmes said during the interview that the situation is still under investigation but had taken a toll on her and the call center.
“I think that it would be a misfortune for not only the employees but the callers, my family that lives here if we don’t keep this agency going,” she said.
Holmes said she left a private sector job to come back because she “missed it” at the call center.
“It is the pivotal point of public safety. All roads lead here when you need help and we are here to help,” she said.