October 16, 2017
The revelation about Harvey Weinstein begs the question of why it took so many years for women to come forward to say he had harassed them. But sometimes it takes a collective effort for people to feel comfortable revealing that a disgusting thing happened.
Back in the early 1990s, when I was still young and cute, the Director of a state agency literally lunged at me across my desk when I was working late. When I pulled back in horror, he (a married man and my senior executive) gave me a frustrated sigh.
"Well, look at you. Just look at you!" he said, as though it was somehow my fault he had decided to propel his body at me.
After that, my career with that division was toast. Within a week, the Director had hired a "consultant" (a.k.a. tall, brunette, beauty-pageant type). He gave her a private office two doors down from mine and told my suck-up manager to take my printer and put it in the girlfriend’s office, because she didn't have one.
This was before email. Since I did media relations and wrote many press releases and articles for the division, I desperately needed a printer to do my job. This infuriated me to the point of seething. So I would angrily take my disk, go into her office, boot up her computer, print my work, etc.
Before long, my suck-up manager told me to ask the girlfriend’s permission before going in there, so that she would not be disturbed. That meant I had to phone the woman, take my disk, knock on her door, yaddah, while she sat in cold silence. Needless to say, I did not thank her for being able to use what had been my printer.
Luckily, my boss agreed with my frustrated complaints. He soon hard-networked all division computers to a centralized printer, except for the girlfriend’s, of course. She kept her private space, door closed. After all, she was a “consultant,” not a state employee, so state rules did not apply to her. Nor did state pay rates.
I have no idea what she was making, but I imagine it was triple my pathetic pay grade.
While I desperately looked for another job, the lecherous division director got promoted to Executive Director of the entire agency. He was quite a dandy, silver-haired, handsome and very well-dressed. He and his “consultant” traveled all over the place, using state or donated funds, purportedly promoting Texas as a place to do business.
The duo created quite a stir at varied events. There was much gossip about their relationship so, before long, the girlfriend’s twin sister starting coming on these trips too, perhaps as a front escort to mask their affair. Again, I have no idea, although some of us wildly gossiped that this was surely for a threesome.
The consultant’s project was named something like “Heartland,” which formulated tourism packages between Texas and the Heartland states. I edited the agency newsletter at that time, so when the dandy Exec told me to hold publication because his Heatland consultant had an article, I waited. And waited. And called.
Days later, my manager brought me her copy, although she officed two doors down. He told me that the Exec had signed off and not to change one word. So I sent the text to the designer who later called and asked what sort of graphic I wanted for that story. I told her to use some sort of heart and the consultant's headshot. After all, it was the February issue. Valentine’s and all that. Get it? Heartland. Girlfriend. Heart. LOL
When the issue came out, my manager rushed in and told me that the dandy Exec was absolutely furious. I played innocent, talking up conceptual ties between Heartland and Valentine’s. But then he whispered, “Off the record, I think that heart was the perfect choice.” Then he winked.
I guess he had enough of the sweetheart by that time too.
I kept trying to find another job but couldn’t. So I eventually quit cold, so frustrated with the goings on in that state agency that I could not bear another day. Not just the consultant situation but other issues that kept me from making a living wage.
I soon got revenge, however, when a state legislator called to tell me that the dandy Exec was being investigated for misuse of public funds. The legislator asked if I had any “dirt.” I told him what I knew, but I really didn’t have facts about misuse of public funds, other than the consultant’s suspected high pay and her questionable role at that agency. Not wanting to be the only mole, I asked the legislator to keep my name off the record.
He told me, “Oh, don’t worry. I’ve spoken to over 200 people who’ve told me the same things and much more.”
Such is life, sadly. Not every job. Not every boss. But even one boss like that dandy Exec is enough to cause a woman to either seek another position or stew in anger until turn-about comes into play.
Several months later, the Exec was run out of the agency. He was quoted in the newspaper, saying that his demise was due to false complaints by a disgruntled former employee. I guess he thought that was me. But I know that mine was only one minor voice. There were 200 of us who finally got up our courage and had our chance to speak.