Ex-L.A. airport official admits improper personal text messages, denies sexting
A high-level executive who recently resigned from his post at Los Angeles World Airports said in an interview 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 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 added: “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. Asked if Molina had sent sexually explicit messages, airport executive director Gina Marie Lindsey said an anonymous email sent to her Friday contained “allegations to that effect.” She said she asked Molina to explain himself after receiving the email.
“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, she said.
Neither KCBS nor airport officials have said who made the allegations. Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes LAX, 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 Mike 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.”
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 Congress.
Molina said he could not remember which messages posed embarrassment to him. He said at least one message that had been meant for him went to another airport employee with the same last name by mistake. That email 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.
One day later, Berghoff said he had not made any decision to hire Molina. “We’ve had some very general conversations but nothing beyond that,” he said.
-- David Zahniser and Dan Weikel
Photo: Mike Molina. Credit: lawa.org