Things Incompetent Executives Say

These are all true experiences I have had with various executives during my career. These things have been said to me or to others in my presence. In some cases they were emailed to me directly or I was copied on emails these statements were in. In some cases, I will put in parentheses afterwards what is wrong with the statement in case it isn’t obvious or to provide context.

Feel free to add incompetent and unlawful things you have overheard.

“I don’t care if we get sued” (High-Level Executive whose job it is to investigate complaints and make determinations)

“There is actually technically no such thing as sexual harassment” (Spoken by an attorney during a Sexual Harassment Prevention training)

“We don’t agree that these statements are true:

1. Some employers do not enforce their policies even-handedly to all employees 

2. Some employers are plagued by personal friendships that create conflicts of interest which result in some employees in the in-crowd being protected from discipline while others are not” (Actually communicated to an HR professional by workplace leaders and workplace lawyers)

“Your concerns are legitimate, but you’re being uppity” (Spoken by an Ombuds Officer)

“You called OSHA; you’re not getting any cost of living increase this year” (Spoken by a former boss who was subsequently convicted of embezzling huge amounts of money)

“We’ve had a complaint that your nipples stick out too much”

“It doesn’t matter that he did nothing wrong; XXXX doesn’t like him and we’re firing him” (Spoken by a VP to an HR person after an employee proved that he did not make the errors his boss accused him of)

“Whoever called OSHA is getting fired!” (Spoken by a Medical Director (who earned over $300k a year) to one of his employees)

“Look at this porn on my computer!” (Spoken by a supervisor to his secretary)

“I hurt my wrist having sex last night”

“I went to the dentist today; no blowjobs tonight!”

“We have to break the law otherwise we wouldn’t make enough money”

“Your pantylines are showing!” (Yelled loudly in a crowded room at a workplace)

“I don’t care if it violates the ADA; we’re getting rid of him this week” (Spoken by a high-level executive about an employee with disabilities)

“I should have hired someone older and less pretty than you because my secretary is threatened by you” (Spoken by the head of an organization)

“We changed her performance evaluation because she cried and insisted on it; you know how she is” (Spoken by the head of an organization)

“He”s so Italian; he’s like just off the boat” (Spoken by a head of an organization)

“No, we didn’t ask him directly in our conversation if he put up the harassing sign” (Spoken by the head of an organization who was looking into a serious harassment/workplace violence incident)

“We do not believe we need to investigate this complaint” (Spoken by the General Counsel of an organization and echoed by high-level executives)

“What do you mean you have this listed that we did not investigate it?” (Spoken by head of organization years after the incident – after insisting that it did not need to be investigated)

“It’s bad enough to be sued, but it’s even worse to be sued by your Human Resources person” (Spoken by an attorney representing a workplace after external complaints filed by their HR person).

“No, we will not accommodate your ADA accommodation request” (Spoken by a high-level executive).

“We do not HAVE to accommodate an ADA request” (Spoken by the General Counsel of a workplace).

“The General Counsel’s job is to protect the organization no matter what” (Spoken by the General Counsel of a workplace)

“You didn’t hear this from me, but they’re going to blame you for that huge mistake made by XXXXXX and they’re going to use it to try to fire you” (Spoken by a high-level executive in a workplace)

“We don’t need another EEO training; the staff doesn’t like them” (Spoken by the General Counsel in a workplace)

“The question is how do we get the staff to attend the EEO trainings?” (Spoken by the head of a workplace)

“That’s just how she is; she yells at people and is just like that – we can’t change her personality” (Spoken by the head of a workplace in response to complaints).

“We dont want you making any facial expressions that express anger” (Written in a performance review memo to an employee – not the employee noted above).

“You yelled in an email by using all caps for a few words” (Written in a perfromance reivew to an employee who had complained about actual yelling by other employees that was ignored)

“They don’t want to learn from someone younger than them; that’s you” (Spoken by a paid consultant who chose not to confront the client workplace leaders with their unlawful actions and statements)

“This is a dysfunctional organization; you’re very capable. Dysfunctional organizations get rid of capable and competent people. Be careful” (Spoken by a paid consultant)

“You can stand up to them on their violations of EEO issues; it’s your job. But you might get fired” (Spoken by a paid consultant).

“She’s just trying to infiltrate this place and be a whistleblower again” (Spoken by an employee)

“We call her ‘the humanist’ not the HR Director” (Spoken by a high-level executive)

“Are you meeting with you boyfriend again?’ (Spoken by a high-level executive about two of her colleagues having a routine business meeting)

“We do not want your feedback unless we ask for it”  (Written in a performance review to an HR person whose feedback about unlawful statements and actions was routinely ignored)

“Are you trying to cause a problem by bringing this up?” (Spoken by a workplace attorney who refused to address a serious problem in discussion)

“Honey, you have great legs” (Spoken by a  professor emeritus at a fundraiser)

“Ooh, do YOU want to be MY personal assistant?” (Spoken by the Chairman of a workplace to a woman)

“XXXXXX can come in whatever time he wants! The late policy does not apply to him. Make these complaints go away!” (Spoken by a high-level executive about an employee who was late everyday and whose boss wanted the employee to have to come in on time)

“My dealer is meeting me here in 20 minutes” (Spoken by a high-level executive to his assistant)

“If you know your boss has a hard-on for you, you make sure it gets done!” (Spoken by the head of an organization to an employee during a performance review with HR)

“Do you have any disabilies?” (Spoken by the head of a workplace to a candidate during a job interview)

“How was the wedding? When do you plan on having children? I have to plan our staff” (Spoken by the head of an organization to an employee after her honeymoon)

“If you aren’t able to talk, you can’t perform your job” (Ignorance about accommodations available – electronic devices, etc.)

“Are you still being harassed?” (Spoken by an HR employee to a person in a crowded elevator at their workplace)

“You can’t be the HR Director! You look like you’re 16! (Spoken by a government employee to an HR Director)

“I can’t accept this complaint from  you” – This was said to me by a Columbia University finance executive who refused to accept my complaint about Terence Davidson, to whom I reported for several years. Here is what happened later –

HOSPITAL EXECUTIVE ARRESTED Feds say Columbia official stole 435G


Tuesday, September 19th 2000, 2:14AM

The top administrator of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center’s obstetrics-gynecology unit embezzled $435,000 from the hospital’s fund-raising coffers – and spent the cash on a European vacation and other luxuries, prosecutors charged yesterday.

Terence Davidson, 48, was arrested at dawn yesterday at his home a few blocks from the Washington Heights hospital as part of an ongoing probe of alleged financial improprieties in the ob-gyn department.

Davidson was charged with one count of wire fraud yesterday as his attorney, Daniel Conti, insisted all of his client’s actions were approved by Dr. Roger Lobo, the chairman of the ob-gyn department.

“He denies any criminal wrongdoing,” Conti said outside court. “He intends to fight this in court.”

Officials from Columbia University, which runs the hospital, declined to comment except to note “the university continues to cooperate with federal authorities,” said Carolyn Conway, a spokeswoman for Columbia’s medical school.

Lobo, a renowned gynecologist who has appeared on “Good Morning America” as a medical expert, could not be reached for comment.

Davidson was hired as department administrator for the hospital’s obstetrics and gynecology department in October 1995, according to a complaint filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kolodner.

With approval from Lobo, he opened a money market account at Chase Manhattan Bank under the name Sloane Activities in July 1999, according to Conti and another source familiar with the investigation.

Davidson was listed as “one of two signatories” on the money market account, the complaint states.

In September 1999, Davidson opened a Sloane checking account, for which he was the sole signatory, prosecutors said. By last December, he had created a firm operated out of his home called Davidson Management Consultants, according to the complaint.

In the next month, he allegedly transferred $435,000 from both Sloane money market and checking accounts into the Davidson Management account. Columbia officials told the FBI that Davidson was not authorized to make those transfers to Davidson Management.

Using funds from the Davidson Management account, Davidson allegedly bought a Jaguar and spent liberally during a European vacation, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

Between Feb. 26 and March 12, for instance, he dropped $33,665 from the Davidson Management account on hotels, meals and airfare in England, France and Italy, the complaint alleges.

Davidson, who faces up to five years behind bars if convicted, was released yesterday on $100,000 bond by Manhattan Federal Magistrate Michael Dolinger.


2 thoughts on “Things Incompetent Executives Say

  1. Here is a story of the fraudulent misuse of taxpayer funds:

    By Julie Shapiro

    DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

    BATTERY PARK CITY — The Battery Park City Authority poured more than $300,000 of taxpayer money into open-bar parties, pricey executive lunches and gifts for employees, an investigation by the state Inspector General’s office revealed Friday.

    The Authority also fired an employee who complained about favoritism and paid her to keep quiet, the report said.

    “Such excessive spending by a state Authority was outrageous,” Inspector General Joseph Fisch said in a statement.

    The Authority sunk $13,000 a year into lavish themed picnics for employees between 2005 and 2008, including $1,000 for pony rides, $600 for face painting and $460 for a clown, the report said.

    The Authority also threw a $14,000 holiday party each year, with an open bar and a $2,000 DJ.

    Former Authority chairman James Gill and president Jim Cavanaugh both resigned earlier this year in response to the investigation’s preliminary findings, Fisch said.

    Although Cavanaugh often urged his staff to save money, he oversaw “the authority’s extravagant spending practices” between 2005 and 2008, Fisch said.

    Former authority chairman James Gill. (DNAinfo)Cavanaugh called the report “nonsense” in a conversation Friday and said his decision to leave the Authority was unrelated to the findings.

    The report “is a poor attempt for Joe Fisch to justify the $750,000 in legal fees that BPCA spent during the two years of his investigation,” Cavanaugh said in a statement.

    Former city comptroller Bill Thompson took over the authority’s board last March and he named Gayle Horwitz president of the Authority last week.

    In a statement issued on behalf of the Authority Friday, Thompson said he took the Inspector General’s findings seriously and had already made changes to the authority’s policies, including entertainment expenditures.

    “The board of the Battery Park City Authority and I are committed to ensuring that the Authority adheres to the highest standards of conduct,” Thompson said in the statement. “The actions we have taken over the last several months will ensure the Authority is operating at the highest levels and is prepared for the future.”

    Fisch’s statement commended Thompson for his “prompt and positive response to our recommendations.

    “I am confident that Battery Park’s policies are now in line with state guidelines,” Fisch continued.

    Other questionable expenses mentioned in the report include a car and chauffeur for Gill, valued at $19,000. Gill was supposed to serve without compensation, and Authority staff fudged the figures to make it difficult to see the total benefit he received, the report said.

    The Battery Park City Authority generates tens of millions of dollars a year. (DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro)Daniel Horwitz, Gill’s lawyer, said Gill resigned from the Authority voluntarily and cooperated with the investigation. Horwitz called the Inspector General’s allegations “ludicrous” and said Gill used the car only for work purposes.

    Gill has begun repaying the Authority for the use of the car, the report said.

    Additional hefty expenditures by the Authority include $163,000 on travel and entertainment between 2005 and 2008, mostly on fancy lunches, the report shows. Gill and Cavanaugh lunched together 32 times over about two years, racking up a bill of more than $2,300.

    The Authority also made a slew of questionable charitable donations to groups unrelated to Battery Park City, including Alabama’s Auburn University Foundation, the Queens Botanical Garden, Staten Island Development Corp. and many more.

    Cavanaugh said the Authority curtailed its charitable expenditures after receiving new rules from the attorney general’s office in 2006, and he said the authority’s semiannual parties were not out of line with the spending of other authorities.

    Speaking in his own defense, Cavanaugh also said he decreased the Authority’s operating budget from $31.8 million in 2005 to $28.6 million in 2010. The Authority’s travel and entertainment budget also decreased, from $153,220 in 2005, before Cavanaugh became president, to $48,300 in 2009, he said.

    The allegations that led to the Inspector General’s investigation surfaced after Cavanaugh fired former controller Debra Bogosian in the fall of 2008. Bogosian had strong performance reviews, but Cavanaugh allegedly dismissed her because she did not get along with Senior Vice President of Operations Laura Wilson Kimball, who was close to Cavanaugh.

    The Authority then inappropriately paid Bogosian $56,304 to sign an agreement promising not to say anything that “disparages, criticizes or detracts from the character or reputation of BPCA,” the report states.

    In a memo to Authority board members, Bogosian accused Cavanaugh of playing favorites with Kimball. She said Gill, Cavanaugh and an “Inner Circle” of employees created a “hostile work environment [and] spared few people in their campaign to harass, intimidate, and marginalize staff.”

    Kimball lost five vacation days as a result of the investigation, the report said.

    To conduct the investigation, Inspector General’s office interviewed 16 people under oath and reviewed thousands of documents, including budget reports, credit card statements, employee manuals, performance reviews, and e-mails.

    •Battery Park City Authority: How Does It Make Its Money?
    Founded in 1968 to oversee the new 92-acre neighborhood built on Hudson River landfill, the Authority takes in more than $200 million a year from taxpaying residents and businesses of Battery Park City. [DNAinfo]

    Read more:

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