Sunday, April 08, 2012
My Sunday Feeling
Years ago, a friend of mine came to me with a problem. She had gotten herself involved with a married man who was pretty high up in the food chain at the company where they both worked. As if this were not sufficiently complicated in and of itself, she was married as well. They were both separated from their soon-to-be former spouses at the time I visited with her. But the wife of her lover was not going quietly and had made it plain through her lawyer that her exit would be costly.
My friend is a very good person. To look at her, and her quiet unassuming life, you wouldn't have believed that she could get herself in this type of fix. And yet here she was on my porch swing weeping in her glass of chardonnay as she told me this story.
People have told me all kinds of Godawful stuff out on the porch swing. I think they tell me stuff because they are secure in the knowledge that it will go no further. That and I do not judge. Especially over matters of sexual morality. We have all done things we are not proud of.
Likewise do I not judge Arkansas Razorback Bobby Petrino who as the world knows by now admitted to having a "prior inappropriate relationship" with someone. That someone is likely to be 25 year old Jessica Dorrell, recently promoted by him from within the Athletic Department as his assistant, who was taking a motorcycle ride with Patrino when he wrecked his motorcycle last Sunday. Petrino lied to to his boss Athletic Director Jeff Long. He told Long he was riding alone which was dutifully put out in a press release by the UA Athletic Department. Only the police report clearly stated otherwise.
Which puts Jeff Long in one hell of a fix.
Now I doubt that Jeff Long, like most bosses, much concerns himself with the sex lives of his employees. But I also doubt that he would have approved of his highest paid employee carrying on with a) a subordinate who is b) engaged to be married to man who is likewise an employee of the Athletic Department.
Forget the morality of it. What kind of parallel universe did Bobby Petrino live in that red flags didn't start going up? And what possibly made him think that he could get away with an extramarital affair seeing as how he is practically more important if not as least as visible as the damn Governor?
Again, forget the morality of it. That is between the Petrinos. That is between Jessica, her fiance and her family. While I don't think Jessica is a victim, I also don't think that it is a good thing to start your career off in the public eye exposed for sleeping with the boss. I think it reenforces certain unfortunate stereotypes about attractive young things. Especially blonde things.
Here's what matters insofar as Petrino's employment relationship is concerned. What is the appropriate penalty for his having exposed the University of Arkansas to enormous liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? As the employer Long will have to consider a couple of things. What if Jessica had called off the affair? Which presumably she at least might have done after consecration of the sacred bonds of matrimony. And what if Petrino kept hitting on her?
I defended one of these once. Or tried to. It was ugly. We settled it.
Here's another wrinkle: Petrino said he lied to cover up an inappropriate relationship. Given the context of the lie, we may again assume that the relationship was with Jessica. She had only been in her new position for a month or so. Which raises a couple of questions. Did they start carrying on during the brief time she was his assistant? Or had this been going on for some time and Bobby managed to hire his clandestine girlfriend? If I'm Jeff Long, I think a) this is a really sleazy business practice at best and b) a potential can of worms at the worst. For all we know there could have been 5 people of various races, ages, national origins and religious persuasions who wanted that job.
"Hired his squeeze" is not a legitimate, non-discriminatory justification for a hiring decision.
Also, what does Long do with Jessica and her fiance? There would have to be unbearable tension in the workplace. Does he put her on leave while he sorts this out? Does he tell the fiance to take a few days off? The young man has to feel like an idiot. If he brings Petrino back, what does he do with Jessica that won't get him sued? What will Jeff Long do the first time he hears his assistant say "Gloria Allred is on line 1 for you?"
You don't pay a man over 3 million a year to cause this kind of a migraine. Bobby Petrino may not get fired. But there will be hell for him to pay for causing this mess to fall in Jeff Long's lap.
Which brings me back to my distraught friend. We were and still are in the habit of exchanging chaste kisses. And as she was leaving that night she gave me the usual peck on the mouth.
"No," I said. "Give me a good one."
"What?" she said.
"You heard me. Lay one on me"
She gave a "what the hell" shrug of the shoulders and then proceeded to suck my adenoids out. After she was finished she stepped back. She crossed her arms.
"Well," she said, "How was that?"
"It was a lot of fun," I said as I checked my front teeth with my thumb. "But it ain't worth $200,000."
Like I said, I do not judge. And carrying on with a younger woman is not without its discrete charm. I've been there.
But I would like to ask Bobby Petrino if he thinks it was worth it. Bet I know the answer.
And he hasn't even gotten the final tab yet.