Miami Beach

Union: Brain tumor may explain Miami Beach dispatcher’s mistake

A Miami Beach emergency dispatcher who is facing termination for a 14-minute delay in sending help to a dying man’s house has a fast-growing brain tumor that may have affected his work, he says.

Damian Janee, 51, said he is going public with his medical condition in an attempt to restore his reputation as he chooses a doctor to remove the mass from his head.

“I think that someone decided on the strategy of blaming a dispatcher with a troubled past, and that sounded like a good idea at the time,” he said. “The truth is that I’ve been serving the community for 10 years, and the truth is that me and my co-workers save lives every day.”

The police department, which manages the city’s 911 center, recommended firing Janee after an investigation showed that he took 14 minutes to dispatch an emergency call. Miami Beach Fire Rescue took an additional 10 minutes to arrive at the scene, and a 65-year-old man died.

A disciplinary hearing to fire Janee was supposed to take place Tuesday, but it was rescheduled to give his lawyer more time to prepare, according to the police department.

Janee said he immediately dispatched the call through the city’s computer system, but not over the air. Still, fire rescue should have gotten the call promptly, he said.

“I’m not the only factor involved in this,” Janee said.

The delay in his disciplinary hearing is good news for Janee, said Communications Workers of America local union President Richard McKinnon.

“We want to clear his name eventually, but right now we want him to focus on his health, and right now he needs health insurance,” McKinnon said.

McKinnon said that Janee found out about his medical condition about three weeks ago, but did not notify the city.

Janee has a discipline history leading back to 2011. City records show that he has been disciplined for sending emergency police help to the wrong place, and for leaving a 911 line open for 37 minutes while he surfed the Web, making the line unavailable for incoming calls. He left the line open another time for more than 16 minutes. Another time, he failed to dispatch a call about a building fire for four minutes.

“The lapses that he had while he was at work could very well be attributed to the growing tumor,” McKinnon said.

Said police spokesman Sgt. Bobby Hernandez: “We can’t comment about someone’s medical condition.”

Janee said he is now on medical leave.

Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.

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