Editor’s note: A full interview with Acting Director Karima Holmes is included at the bottom of this story.

WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Mayor Muriel Bowser revoked the nomination of 911 call center leader Karima Holmes on Monday after it became apparent key city council members were opposed given her controversial tenure.

This comes hours after Holmes sat down with DC News Now exclusively to discuss her tenure, defend her record and implore council members to see the full picture beyond “perceptions” based on a 2021 DC auditor’s report that blamed her for leadership failures that led to death in some cases.

The momentum had been building against Holmes for months and ever since she returned to the position she held from 2016 to 2021 and then came back in March to serve in on an interim basis.

“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.

“I love 911. I applied for the employees. I applied to come back and do what I’ve done before which is stabilize the agency, get it in the right direction of what it needs to be,” Holmes said.

But council members shot down this return. Armed with a scathing 144-page report, several including Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said she’s not suited to lead.

Holmes begged to differ. When she returned in March, she said she found the call center adrift with scores of resignations and low morale – a point Bowser made in her statement praising Holmes’ tenure.

“I had heard that the agency was quite frankly dwindling, and I mean in staffing. It was a toxic environment,” Holmes told DC News Now in her office. “And there was a 13-month search for an executive director to come run this agency and it hadn’t been filled.”

Holmes, who is caring for her seriously ill mother, said she tried to stay above the criticism that lacked context.

“I think that I took for granted the power of social media, the power of these undercurrents of relationships, and the power of disinformation and how it does a disservice to residents,” she said. “The amount of backlash that I have gotten still does not make sense to me.”

An audit put the blame for problems at the call center squarely on the 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.

And 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 that the situation is still under investigation but that the situation has taken a toll on her and the call center.

“Loss of life for anyone is devastating for me. I don’t sleep lightly,” she said. “It devastating for my employees. There are processes that we felt could have been better aligned to help our call takers and dispatchers that were involved.”

Tyrell Morris is Holmes’ counterpart in New Orleans and said there’s no one better to lead DC’s 911 call center than her.

“I think Director Holmes when she left the organization for a brief of time, I think the District felt the consequences of her not being in place,” Morris said in an interview. “I think the difficulty is the District of Columbia is a challenging jurisdiction to manage emergency communications. You have over 20 law enforcement agencies that you have to be in the middle of.”

But DC Auditor Kathy Patterson said her audit revealed serious issues under Holmes.

“What the audit found was significant leadership and management failures, failure to meet national standards on responding to emergency medical calls, for a two-year period,” Pattersons said.

In September, her office revealed in a follow-up report that there had been “minimal” progress but still had a long way to go. “Yes, there’s been some training but for example, on the issue of hiring supervisors that we found to be a serious issue, a whole budget cycle had gone by and that hadn’t been addressed,” she said.

Patterson also put the responsibility on the mayor and council for some of the issues.

“The buck stops with the elected officials. They’re the ones who knocked on doors to get those positions and they’re the ones who have to make the decisions,” she said. “For example, the issue about staffing for supervision, council and the mayor work together on a budget. That’s something that needs to be handled jointly.”

Holmes said she largely agreed with the audit’s findings and that things are improving.

“These are things that we know in 911 centers are really hard to do,” she said. “I know the agency is doing better. We do save lives on that floor. And we can get better.”