City Hall

Phoenix Chief Spokesman Put on Leave for Unknown Allegations

You're the city's chief spokesman, home on administrative leave for allegations your bosses won't specify to the public. A reporter calls, and you tell him you don't want to say why you were put on leave. And then you say, out of the blue, "In my career, I have never touched anyone inappropriately."

Yeah, we think that's really weird, too. But that's what former interim director of the city's public information office, David J. Ramirez (pictured), reportedly told Arizona Republic reporter Scott Wong today.

If we were a betting newspaper, we'd have to wager that maybe Ramirez's woes have something to do with, hmm, an allegation that he touched someone inappropriately. We called Ramirez at home after reading Wong's blog post to ask him about the statement, but all we got was his voice mail.

Ramirez returned our message at about 4 p.m. He tells us that his quote shouldn't be understood to imply that he's touched someone inappropriately.

He simply meant to tell Wong that he's not being accused of touching, striking or doing anything like that to someone, he says.

"I just said I couldn't talk about any aspect of the investigation," he says. "I wanted to convey to him that I've always been professional."

Ramirez says he let Wong know the quote was sort of out of context. He says Wong revised the blog post, but we saw no difference.

"I'm more than happy to talk to you when this thing is over," Ramirez says.

Whatever Ramirez is alleged to have done, the allegation alone seems like an embarrassment both to Ramirez and the city. As Wong notes, Ramirez -- a former Republic reporter -- has been with the city's public information office for 10 years and hoped to be named the permanent director.

Frank Fairbanks, Phoenix city manager, also has an offbeat quote in Wong's piece: "[Ramirez] could be as innocent as the new, driven snow."

When was the last time you heard a city official like Fairbanks publicly question anyone's guilt or innocence? This doesn't sound good.

However snow-like Ramirez is, the city has already replaced him with another acting director, Deborah Sedillo Dugan.

Ramirez's voice mail says he'll return on Thursday, but he tells us he's not sure when he'll back.  Meantime, city staff and overly nosy farts like us will have to work the rumor mill. An online search of court records turns up nothing on him.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern