I was employed by NavCom Defense Electronics, formerly Hoffman Electronics and Gould, Inc. My work record was superior to exceptional at each juncture of my career path. I rose through the ranks from an entry-level accounting clerk to Director of Compliance and Internal Audit. I devoted all of my professional life and a great percentage of my personal life to the quest of the corporate brass ring. I am willing to telI the truth about who I am and what I believe. I have nothing to hide and will hide nothing. The most important purpose of my story is to set the record straight for myself and to enlighten women to the perils of going against the system. Since I left the company, former friends and coworkers have only heard NavCom’s side of the story. It is time to hear my side. Power, money and high-priced attorneys may insulate NavCom Defense Electronics and Clifford C. Christ from some of the realities of life, but in the end the truth will prevail…
My job was an important part of my life, the very essence of my identity. It was a safe place to hide from my confusion regarding my own sexual orientation, in my quest to understand the mystery of life as an individual contributor to a society sometimes viewed as being held together by rubber bands, magic glue and stapled by human follicles, which includes everything from total selfish motives to good intentions.
I felt that my life had finally come full circle. I had a good career. I made an excellent salary. I was living with someone that I deeply cared about. My children were grown and on their own. I had a few dollars in the bank and some good investments. I was looking forward to a quieter life pace with a secure future, less stress and a little time to smell more flowers, see more sunsets and chase treasured rainbows.
I had lived though the challenging years. I believed that the struggles of a failed marriage, single parenthood, and caregiving to aged parents were becoming dim memories. Some filled with joyous moments, crinkled photographs, pain of different intensities and immense relief that the future path to be followed was finally mine.
Then I stood up for a principle and ruined my life. Something that I believed in, was trained to understand and thought that I had the responsibility to try to enforce, as a member of management. When you manage people, you have more of an obligation to them than to just supervise their work, hand out assignments and approve their timecards. Most employees spend more waking hours at work interacting with fellow employees than we they do with their families. As a workplace manager, sometimes things happen to the people that you are responsible for. Things that are unjust, unfair and that can significantly alter their lives, both in and out of the office.
Journal of Events
1995 had been an unbelievable year. I was on a medical leave from the company from August 29, 1995 to January 02, 1996. The reason for this leave was that I underwent two surgeries, left and right Carotid Endarterectomies and suffered a mild stroke. NavCom Defense Electronics, Inc. employee Elizabeth was my life partner and we shared a life together. Elizabeth and I worked together. We had been together since 1987. She was assigned to my department by the company Chief Financial Officer. I did not hire her. The company does not have any policies prohibiting this type of arrangement but I probably did not use the best judgment in allowing her to be assigned to my department. But because my boss insisted, I did not say no. There would have been no way to explain my concerns unless I was willing to “out” myself, which at that time I was not prepared to do. Elizabeth began working in the Compliance Department in July 1989. When I was offered to have Elizabeth assigned to my department it bothered me a bit because of our personal relationship. But I always make a pro and con chart to help me make decisions and the pro’s certainly outweighed the cons. The only con on the chart was her relationship with me. Elizabeth is a very talented individual and I selfishly asked myself, where else would I find an employee who was willing to give up her weekends and vacations and a big part of her life to support my dedication to the company? She was willing to work any hours, do any assignments to support me and accomplish goals for the company. It is not an excuse, for having a relationship with a direct reporting employee, as this was not out of the ordinary. Many others were rumored to be doing the same, including the president of the company.
Elizabeth was my caretaker. Since I was seriously ill, she did not want to upset me, so she did not share many events that had happened at work between she and Bill Snyder. Our boss had asked her to help Bill Snyder to become computer proficient at porno gratis. Elizabeth is very computer knowledgeable and was the Finance Department’s computer guru. She told me that Snyder liked American-On-Line (AOL) and that he was trying to access the chat groups to meet women. This was about the time that newspapers were full of articles regarding “sex on the Internet” and on such services as AOL. She told me about some of the pictures that he had received from others and had shown her. I was aware (during the summer of 1995) that Elizabeth had sent an innocent picture of two fully clothed ladies from the early 1900’s. It was a joke in response to his request that she send him some “Hot Pics”… I was also aware that he had called her and had sworn at her that this was not the kind of pictures he wanted. He wanted “hot” porno pictures. Because I was afraid of him, I told her to try to ignore him and hopefully he would “find a new hobby or become bored with computer porn” soon and leave her alone. I was also afraid because Bill would often tell lesbian jokes and he eventually told Elizabeth that he knew she was a lesbian. She believed that she was being blackmailed into helping him with his computer erotica habit. She was trying to protect me because I was not well, but we didn’t know in mid 1995 the reasons for my health issues. NavCom Defense Electronics, Inc. is a very homophobic company, my career could be jeopardized. We were afraid to upset him because Bill Snyder is a bully, powerful and vindictive. He enjoys wielding control over others. His position as Vice-President and part owner of the company could hurt our jobs. Since we were assigned to him for many special projects, his criticism of us would be career limiting. NavCom is a small company and although the Compliance Department directly reports to the CFO, any Vice President can request that we do work for them on special projects. The request is usually approved. I have seen Bill Snyder in “action” and he is ruthless. I was afraid of him and what he could do to my career. I had complained over the years to my immediate boss that his actions, jokes and behavior were offensive. I was told to just “ignore him” as the President of the company was aware of his behavior and never did anything to stop him.
Elizabeth did not tell me of the severity of his actions until the last week of December 1995, just before we were to go back to work on January 03, 1996. She had been off work due to the Christmas yearly plant shutdown for the holidays and I was returning from my medical leave. I asked her what was wrong with her because she seemed upset, depressed and she was not looking forward to returning to work. This was very unusual as she liked and cared very much about her job. She had been depressed and upset but I thought it was tied to my illness. I didn’t take notice of much during these last months due to the stroke (stroke is such a scary word, I have fully recovered) and the medication that I was taking. I slept and rested much of the time.
On either December 27th or December 28th, 1995, Elizabeth broke down and told me what had happened. She told me that Bill Snyder had been harassing and threatening her for months. When she would tell Snyder that he shouldn’t be doing and saying the things that he was doing and that he would get into trouble, Snyder told her that she was a “nothing” and that no one would believe her. He said that the company would never get rid of him because he knew too much. He stated that if he went “down” he would take the whole company “down” with him. He explained that “you don’t report sexual harassment you grade it” meaning a,b,c,d etc. Snyder told her that Skip has a relationship with Jennifer (Clifford C. (Skip) Christ, President and CEO and Jennifer Stephens, Director of Contracts) and Frank is having a relationship with Barbara (Frank Scalfaro, VP and CFO and Barbara Carlino, his Secretary). Do you think he cares that I have porno in my office… don’t be a fool. If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours and nobody will get hurt. If you say anything, I will tell everyone you’re a lesbian and ruin you and Margot’s career. You are expendable, you are a nothing, I am not!!!!!”
Elizabeth told me about the pictures that he had sent her and the pictures that he had demanded that she send him. She told me about the “package” that he had sent her, and the lesbian remarks and threats to ruin us. She felt humiliated that anyone would send her such an item. And after Snyder’s threatening remarks, she was afraid to report him to anyone. I asked to see the package. I took tongs to look at the handkerchiefs. It looked as if he had masturbated into them and there was a hair that looked like a pubic hair. In 1997, the DNA reports confirmed that the semen was Snyder’s. (Snyder had called her a few days after he sent them and asked “Did you get my package?….. Gee, I expected you to reciprocate in them and send them back to me. I never understood that comment and still don’t. Elizabeth also shared with me that Snyder had made comments to her about her lifestyle, mostly in reference to men or the lack of men. I was still on medical leave at that time. Elizabeth said to me that she became physically ill upon receiving the handkerchiefs and went through many episodes of vomiting and would get the shakes at work. Was unable to concentrate, and wouldn’t leave our office area unless she absolutely had to.
I told Elizabeth that I needed time to think of what to do. At the time I faced probably the toughest dilemma in my professional life. I liked my job, as Elizabeth liked hers. And until the Snyder situation arose, my job responsibilities, as the Director of Compliance and Internal Audit, included protecting the company. These duties included ethics training (I wrote the company Code of Ethics) and I was the focal point for interfacing with the Government representatives for audit purposes.
Life was good. My salary was more than eighty thousand dollars a year. Elizabeth’s was in the high thirties. We had a nice home, our children were grown and we were looking forward to the good years ahead.
This all crashed as soon as I stood up for a principle. I was right and I did the right thing. The result was a disaster.
Despite the fact that the company had been downsizing, we had been told by our supervisor that we were safe, even if it came down to very few employees because of our accounting backgrounds and computer skills. I also managed the Property Administration function and the Records Retention area. Historically these positions are always the last to be subject to layoffs.
NavCom should not be surprised that I know so much about their activities and history. The company records were a part of my responsibility.
I knew that coming forward about Bill Snyder could possibly be a career limiting move. Thus, I had two problems: (1) Snyder was dangerous and was putting the company in a bad position, both legally and morally (at this time I did not know about the harassment of Donna Mojahedi); and (2) my employee had been pushed over the edge. Snyder’s actions pushed her into a deep depression and had destroyed her feelings of self worth and ruined her self-esteem. She was visibly shaken and was scared that we would lose our jobs if we reported him.
I suggested that perhaps she go to a therapist to work her feelings through. I said I would try to figure out what to do about work. I know NavCom. If it is something that they don’t want to hear, it sometimes becomes “shoot the messenger time”. It was the mood and the pattern throughout the past few years. Many times employees had come to me as a part of my Compliance duties to report something that they thought needed correction or was an ethical problem on the part of management. I would treat the report as anonymous, which I could do because I was fearful that the employee would be retaliated against. There still is a part of me that believed that I would not be included in “shoot the messenger” mentality. My relationship with Skip Christ and Frank Scalfaro had been excellent over the years. I believed that if I came forward with a complaint this serious something would be done. I was naïve. I had always survived because I always played by their rules and never rocked the corporate boat. This time my conscience would not allow me to play their game.
We returned to work on January 03, 1996. When I asked where is Donna Mojahedi?, everyone gave me the look of a “deer caught in the headlights” and said she was on a personal leave. I approached Frank Scalfaro with the same question. When he gave me the personal leave answer and smiled. I asked him if it had anything to do with Snyder. He wouldn’t say, but his body language and demeanor said yes. Then he said that per Skip nobody was to talk about it, but Bill Snyder would not be allowed any more secretaries. Then Frank laughed.
I told him (Scalfaro) that Snyder was dangerous. This wasn’t his only offense, and that if needed, I had information that should put him out the door. Scalfaro didn’t ask for details and Elizabeth made me promise that I wouldn’t take any actions without her knowledge and consent, as she was scared of Snyder and believed his threats. At this time, Elizabeth had absolutely no thought of taking any legal action, she just wanted to heal and make the whole thing go away. But she did not improve, and she did not want to leave the department and take the chance of running into Snyder. When Snyder would call on the phone (the phone has a panel that shows what extension is calling), she would either not answer the phone. If he kept calling and she had to answer, she tried to answer his computer questions, over the phone and not go anywhere near his office.
During the second week back to work, I learned that Margaret Huebner, the VP of Human Resources was leaving the company, and the rumors had it that Frank Scalfaro, my boss would be acting in her place until a replacement was found. This would give me more time to figure out what to do. I decided to wait until Frank took over, this would give me more time to think. I still wanted to find a way to help Elizabeth without hurting the company. Margaret was leaving February 02, 1996 and I planned to talk to Frank again about Snyder the following Monday. I naively thought that I could convince him to quietly help Elizabeth (maybe the company could take care of her therapy costs) and get management to fire Bill Snyder. Margaret’s good-bye luncheon was held February 1, 1996. At the event, she made references to the company’s lack of morals in her good-bye speech. I had heard through the rumor mill that she was unhappy with management (mostly with Mr. Christ, because he makes all final decisions) for not disciplining Snyder over the Donna events. That day February 1, 1996 in the afternoon, I was in a meeting with Frank Scalfaro and he behaved as if Margaret had done the unspeakable by criticizing the company for moral issues. He said that Skip was not a happy camper over it. I told Frank Scalfaro, that the company had a huge problem with Snyder, that Donna was not the only victim, and that Snyder had said and done some unthinkable things to Elizabeth. I told him that Snyder had sent her something unbelievably gross and SOMETHING MUST BE DONE ABOUT HIM. We talked for a few minutes and I was shocked that he didn’t ask anything about how Elizabeth was, only if she was going to sue the company. I explained to him, that she has no desire to hurt the company in any way. But again, something must be done about Snyder. His behavior cannot be ignored any longer. He didn’t ask about what Snyder had sent her and I didn’t tell him. I told him that Snyder has been harassing women for years and from what I understand, reported many times, but the company had done nothing. For their own protection, they must DO something this time.
I also asked him if the company would be liable if Snyder hurt any women that he met on-line while on NavCom business. Snyder had told Elizabeth that he would meet women from America-On-Line on business trips and they would stay in hotels paid for by the company. (My mind set at the time was to help Elizabeth, while still finding a way to protect the company. I told Frank Scalfaro that if Donna Mojahedi ever took any action against the company and called Elizabeth or I as witnesses that we would not lie. I told Frank that he needed to talk to Skip about the situation as it was not going to go away and that the company must address the problem. Frank Scalfaro had a look on his face that told me that I had just hung myself…… Frank had a schedule to keep and the meeting ended. As I walked back to my office, I felt total disappointment at his reaction. His reaction was really no reaction….. he behaved like a man who wanted to grab his wallet (Frank is also an owner) and dive under the table. He didn’t give a damn about either Elizabeth or Donna Mojahedi, he just wanted to know if I thought “this was going to cost the company any money.” I knew then, what I didn’t want to believe, that senior management just wanted the problem to go away, and that Snyder had again escaped any punishment for his actions.
I believe that had it been anyone else but Bill Snyder, something possibly would have been done. Bill Snyder is a part owner, and a Vice President of the contracts that bring money into the company. He is a personal friends with both my boss and the President of the company. A few years ago, I reported a harassment issue, at the request of an employee, regarding another individual and the situation was resolved within 72 hours. People in very high positions seem to be granted a wall of protection that is not extended to the average Joe or Jane employee. Money was the only lubricant that oils the wheels of injustice in this situation. I believe that Skip Christ did a cost-benefit analysis. Bill Snyder brought in contracts and would be instrumental in the negotiations to settle a ten to twenty million-dollar claim against the Government on the IFF Program. Skip was not going to get rid of someone who made money for the company, no matter how bad his behavior had become. The bottom line is the only concern in NavCom’s world, and if I challenged someone who significantly added dollars to the bottom line, I was expendable. Hindsight would have been a great asset. I now realize that if I had been the employee who brought large contracts into the company (and thus made the company vast amounts of money), I would have been protected and Bill Snyder would have been out the door. An “Animal House” atmosphere would be tolerated if it were profitable.