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How to violate Zachry’s e-mail policy and still have a job

Two men, two similar corporate violations, and two drastically different endings.

On January 30, George Dickerson, who worked for Zachry Construction as a federal-procurement coordinator, sent an inflammatory e-mail from a Zachry server to District 7 Councilwoman Elena Guajardo about crime at Graham Central Station, a large nightclub near his house in the Oak Hills subdivision. He was fired the next afternoon for violating the company’s computer-use policy. Two days after he lost his job of 27 years, he committed suicide at his Northwest Side home.

Last June, Ken Wolf, a 10-year vice president at Metropolitan Resources, a Zachry subsidiary, sent an inflammatory e-mail from a Zachry server to friends in which he referred to the East Side as a “ghetto.” Two weeks later Wolf resigned for violating the company’s computer-use policy and wrote a public and contrite letter. Zachry corporate officials were quoted in the Express-News as saying “Mr. Wolf acknowledges that this incident has compromised his ability to represent Zachry in connection with the company’s development projects.”

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Ken Wolf: File under Z (Photo by Lisa Sorg)

His abilities might not have been compromised for long. According to a person who answered the phone at Metropolitan Resources, Wolf works as a consultant for the company. However, another person who answered the phone at Metropolitan Resources said Wolf does not have an office there. That is puzzling because at the Tower-Life Building, home of several Zachry offices, the lobby directory lists Wolf’s name under Metropolitan Resources, which is under the letter “Z.”

The Current called Wolf at Metropolitan Resources — where they accept messages for him — on his cell phone and at his home; he did not return those calls. The Current also contacted Zachry several times about Wolf’s employment status, but Public Affairs Director Vicky Waddy didn’t return calls.

In Wolf’s e-mail, he stumped for mayoral candidate Phil Hardberger, who was in a runoff election against Julián Castro. But the damning portion of the message said that because of weak local leadership — Castro was in his second City Council term at the time — the SBC Center was built “in the ghetto.” Historically, the East Side has been African-American, although now it is racially mixed. Parts of the area are poor, and in general, even with the Spurs arena the East Side hasn’t economically benefited from development that has been funneled to other parts of the city.

Dickerson’s correspondence to Guajardo also contained incendiary language: “I suggest the City of San Antonio force the Graham Central Station to relocate its establishment to the lower class, bad parts of the city, from which all of their patrons live, thereby containing all of these very serious problems within the areas in which these types of criminal debaucheric behavior occur on a regular basis.”

According to the San Antonio Police Department, there were 196 calls to the nightclub in the last 13 months; 32 of those calls were classified as assaults, 10 as minor accidents, and one as rape. However, SAPD said 196 isn’t an exorbitant number. “Whenever you have a lot of people in one location, whether it’s a nightclub or an apartment building, you’re going to have more calls,” an SAPD spokesperson said, adding no extra patrols have been assigned to the area.

Guajardo said she felt upset by the racial and class overtones of Dickerson’s e-mail and called the company. However, Guajardo said she didn’t suggest that Dickerson be fired. “I said ‘I’m very disturbed about this content and that it came from someone from a Zachry work station on work time.’”

Dickerson’s family was quoted in the Express-News as saying that Dickerson was not racist or prejudiced.

Guajardo said that when Waddy called her back, “You could tell how serious it `the issue` was and that Zachry was truly disturbed.”

Waddy said that all Zachry employees with an e-mail account are required to sign a computer-use policy stipulating that “e-mail should not be used for personal correspondence. Inappropriate material that is harassing or embarrassing or defamatory shouldn’t be sent by e-mail from Zachry.”

After Wolf’s e-mail and resignation, the company reminded all employees of Zachry’s computer-use policy, Waddy said. However, with Wolf still benefiting from Zachry — even indirectly — it appears the policy is not set in stone.

By Lisa Sorg



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