L.A. airport agency executive resigns after saying he used work phone to send improper text messages

Mike Molina, former deputy executive director, quit after his boss, Gina Maria Lindsey, received an anonymous complaint. Molina said he did not send or receive sexually explicit messages.

June 17, 2011|By David Zahniser and Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times
  • Michael Molina earned $192,492 a year at Los Angeles World Airports. He was hired by the agency in 2008 after seven years as an aide to Councilwoman Janice Hahn.
Michael Molina earned $192,492 a year at Los Angeles World Airports. He… ( )

A high-level executive who recently resigned from his post at Los Angeles World Airports said Thursday that he improperly used his city-issued cellphone for personal communications but denied that sexually explicit content was involved.

Former Deputy Executive Director Mike Molina quit his job last week after his boss at the agency, Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey, confronted him with an allegation that she had received about him concerning racy text messages.

Lindsey said the complaint came to her Friday in an email from an anonymous source. She said she then asked Molina to explain. "Mike said, 'There's a great deal of this that's not true, but there is some bad judgment that I used, and it's very embarrassing, and I think it's best that I resign,'" she said.

The department dropped the matter once he resigned, Lindsey said. She declined to provide details but said there were no allegations of criminal activity.

Molina said he did not send or receive sexually explicit messages and insisted that his departure had nothing to do with text messages. But he conceded that he had used his phone for personal business in an unprofessional way — and said such messages posed a "potential embarrassment" to him and the airport.

"There were probably texts I sent that were of personal nature. I'm sure there were. I should have used a personal cellphone rather than mix personal texts with business texts," he said.

Asked who sent or received the texts, he said: "It could have been friends of mine. It could have been people I know from church. It would be unprofessional for me and inappropriate for me to use a city phone like that, and unfortunately that's what I did."

The allegations of sexually explicit texts were first reported by KCBS Channel 2. Neither that station nor airport officials have said who made the allegations.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes Los Angeles International Airport, said Lindsey told him earlier this week that Molina "abruptly left and that there were allegations" but gave no details. Meanwhile, airport Commissioner Val Velasco said she had "a lot of respect" for Molina.

"I just thought he was such a positive addition to our staff when he came on board, so I'm actually totally shocked and very saddened by all of this if it's true," she said.

Molina earned $192,492 annually. He was hired by the airport in 2008 after seven years as an aide to Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who is now running for the U.S. House of Representatives

Molina said he could not remember which messages posed a possibility of embarrassment for him. He said at least one that had been meant for him went to another airport employee with the same last name by mistake. That message came from his nephew, who sent a picture of himself wearing a "Rocky Horror Picture Show type of costume," Molina said.

Molina said he apologized to his co-worker about the image and said "it wasn't sexual at all." "It was a photograph in some kind of a costume," he said. "At that point, I said [to the nephew] 'Don't send this kind of stuff to my work email.'"

Molina's departure first became public over the weekend, when he sent an email to friends and co-workers saying that he was leaving to work for "an LA-based public affairs firm." Asked by The Times where he was going, Molina said he planned to work for City Hall lobbyist Arnie Berghoff, but that the details were not final.

The next day, Berghoff said he had not made any decision to hire Molina. "We've had some very general conversations, but nothing beyond that," he said.

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