"Ms. Kurtz," the voice on the other end said, "do you have a Barton Chambers still in your employ?"
"No, he's no longer with us," Mattie responded cautiously, but her curiosity was piqued.
"What a relief," the caller sighed. "Then I guess you found out he faked his credentials."
Not wanting to reveal her utter surprise and the embarrassment of yesterday's fiasco, Mattie replied cagily, "Oh, do you have some additional information on that?"
"Well, when he provided us with this beautiful portfolio, we were all naturally very impressed. We just thought it a trifle strange that a man so young and obviously unsophisticated could have accomplished such a broad spectrum of work at his age. So, we decided to track down the original work on microfilm in our library. We discovered that he was not the author at all. From what we could piece together, he obtained originals of the work, masked out the by-line, and replaced it with his name using matching press type. Then he photocopied the articles and presented them as his own. Actually, his only real newspaper job prior to working for you was at the Pocatello Gazette."
Mattie's mouth hung open as she discovered the truth. "To think," she said to herself, "that I actually felt sort of guilty about having to fire this guy. What a dirtbag."
Returning her thoughts to her caller, she politely commented, "We certainly do appreciate your update. We really don't have much to add, but we'll be sure to inform any other prospective employers to validate his portfolio. Thanks so much for calling."
Outraged, Mattie immediately called Alex.
"Alex, didn't we receive a national award for crack investigative reporting last year?"
"Why yes, Mattie, why do you ask?"
"Well, I just found out from the Chicago School of Journalism that all of those sterling credentials Barton gave you were faked!"
"That's right, faked. The only other newspaper job he had was at some Podunk paper in Idaho."
"But what about all the references I talked to?"
"Didn't you tell me they called you?"
"Well, yes, they did."
"Well, our buddy Barton no doubt had his friends call you and tell you they were the editor of those newspapers. That's probably what all those long distance calls were for. He was getting ready to apply elsewhere and was alerting his friends to call prospective employers as references. Who knows, he may even have faked his voice and provided his own reference."
Mattie was still fuming and hadn't had her full say. "But do we, ace reporters that we are, thoroughly check out his references? Nooooooo, we throw our silly procedures to the wind. We're confident about this guy, we're sure he's gonna put us right up there with The New York Times." she mocked.
"Do we notice that his work seems rather ordinary or maybe even sub-standard?" she kept on. "Of course not! No, instead we focus on minutia and fire the guy because he doesn't want to wear his shoes and borrows somebody's brush!"
Winding up for the last pitch, and this one was guaranteed to be a spitball, Mattie fired, "And, Alex, I'm warning you, if you ever involve me in this kind of crap again, I swear I'll call every one of your editor buddies and make you the butt of every cocktail joke they tell at your damn conventions. And one more thing, don't you ever–and I mean ever–ask me to make an exception for you again," she fumed, crashing the phone down with the receiver still smoking.
We can certainly understand Mattie's anger and frustration at being talked into making an exception that backfired. However, given the behavior of Barton Chambers, a more prudent course of action might have been to have alerted the security guards to be ready to escort Chambers out. Sending Alex out to the elevator with someone in Chamber's mental state might have had some unfortunate consequences. In these emotionally charged situations, it is best to err on the side of caution.
Clearly, Mattie and Alex erred by not verifying his credentials in advance. Mattie's suggestion that "if anything happened, it would fall on Alex's head" is not entirely correct. If the obviously unstable and deceitful employee had injured someone or damaged property while working, the newspaper may well incur legal liability.
Excerpted from Outrageous Conduct: Bizarre Behavior at Work©