DePetro’s Petard

You’d have to be living under a rock around here if you’re not aware of the accusations of sexual harassment that have been leveled against John DePetro by WPRO co-worker Dee DeQuattro (the complaint can be found here). Yesterday DePetro talked to RI Future’s Bob Plain (who also used to work for WPRO) in an attempt to give his side of the story and was subsequently suspended by the radio station (until next Monday) for commenting on the case against their orders.
I always go back and forth on whether to deal with these types of issues–accusations–when it relates to, for lack of a better term, “newsmakers”. In general though, I’ve tried to err on the side of “letting it play out” before jumping in. The DePetro incident, however, is unique in that it involves someone who, by any measure, is all for jumping in feet first and running with accusations and letting the derision fly. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a style that, apparently, appeals to some but I don’t care for it and I’m not a fan.
This is a classic he said/she said and we all have our own predispositions on who to believe. So the question is: do we hoist him on his own petard and take him to task under the assumption that the accusations are true? Or do we hold our fire until the process plays out? Many have no problem ripping into DePetro–giving him a dose of his own medicine. For me, while I see more than a little plausibility in the accusations, I have a hard time stooping to DePetro’s own level in this, mostly out of empathy for his family. If the charges are proven true, it’s pretty obvious that DePetro should be fired and deserves all of the vitriol hurled at him. Karma is a bitch. But I’ll only dance on his grave when–or if–he’s actually buried.
ADDENDUM: I was working on this prior to seeing Bob Plain’s lame attempt at moral equivalency:

Conservatives across Rhode Island are upset that a Warwick public works employee didn’t lose his job after being accused of stealing from the city. Accused, mind you, not convicted. Meanwhile, not a peep from the right about what WPRO should do with the state’s biggest blowhard John DePetro, who is accused of something far worse than property theft. He’s accused of sexual harassment, something that can cause serious emotional scars on another human being. But I suppose so long as it doesn’t cost them any money, conservatives just don’t care about who does what.

That I even have to explain the differences is pretty ridiculous. I mean, even the employee’s union didn’t dispute that he attempted to steal items, Bob. Instead, they based their case on the fact that he’d been “punished” already by being suspended and that his subsequent firing was too far–“double jeopardy”. As Mayor Avidesian put it, the City lost because they had taken “too many bites of the apple” in punishing the employee. That the arbitrator agreed with this line of thinking points more to the failures of arbitration than the “innocence” of a tax-payer funded thief.
Now, Bob is correct that the worker hasn’t been convicted yet (the criminal case is pending and the City tried to have the arbitration hearing after the conclusion of the criminal case, to no avail). I agree that the sexual predation DePetro is accused of is worse than stealing, but being caught red-handed by a third party is different than a he said/she said accusation with no other witness (at least, as far as I could determine). Sorry, it’s just more black and white and, hence, provides more solid ground for critiquing prior to conviction.

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mnichael
mnichael
9 years ago

So, is dipetro suspended without pay?

Dan
Dan
9 years ago

I think that this is the right perspective, Marc. Anybody can file a harassment claim against anybody else, even when there is little or no merit to the accuation. There are three different standards of proof here, and shame on Bob Plain for not identifying the important distinctions between a criminal burden of proof, a civil burden of proof, and the burden of proof necessary for an employer to terminate an employee under contract.
The vast majority of employment discrimination claims are frivolous. To give you an idea of the extent of the phenomenon, the highly activist EEOC only pursues approximately 10-15% of claims based on its own investigations of discrimination claims. Many events become exaggerated beyond all recognition in these claims, and people remember and interpret events differently. There is nearly always more to the story.
To show that I don’t engage in the kind of ideological, outcome-based determinism favored by progressives, DePetro, and the like, I am a frequent critic of the Providence Firefighters Union on many issues (such as disability fraud, 5-6% COLAs, and quid-pro-quo campaign contributions), but I would urge the same level of restraint and agnosticism regarding the sexual harassment claim made against that union by a female former firefighter this week.

michael
9 years ago

Thanks, Dan.

Dan
Dan
9 years ago

I would add that I disagree with both you and Plain that sexual harassment is necessarily “worse” than stealing. Sexual harassment, wrong as it may be, frequently falls into a gray area of human conduct and can be the result of a one-time mistake or misinterpretation of statements or body language. Stealing is an egregious violation of the public trust and employment generally. It speaks to extremely low character and can have very serious consequences for the employing organization, other individuals, and the erosion integrity of our civil institutions. There is a reason why stealing is criminal while sexual harassment is not.

Bob
Bob
9 years ago

how will it play out?
him…I didn’t say that!
her…yes you did!
him…no I didn’t!
Lie detector test?

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
9 years ago

“I agree that the sexual predation DePetro is accused of is worse than stealing”
You have to be kidding.
Asking an adult for consensual normal relations is “predation”?
Scummy yes; sleazy yes but “predation”, really?
Compared to the stomach turning disease spreading unnatural things our Congress”man” brazenly admits to; acts which would land him in prison or dangling from the end of a rope in much of the world?
“Predation”?
Really?

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
9 years ago

Lie detector test?
Posted by Bob at August 16, 2012 11:49 AM
The wisest and oldest of my law professors told us many years ago that if a fool proof lie detector were ever invented the government would be forced to suppress it as the jail doors would swing open with inmates leaving and those who put them there-cops, prosecutors, witnesses, prison guards and “victims” taking their place.
No one with a serious knowledge of the family, civil and criminal courts, the “war on drugs” or the prison industrial complex would take issue with that reality.

Dan
Dan
9 years ago

Most of these cases are settled out of court. The employee is validated by his or her 15 minutes of attention and receives a nominal amount of hush money, while the employer avoids additional negative publicity and legal costs.

sierra1
sierra1
9 years ago

“if a fool proof lie detector were ever invented the government would be forced to suppress it as the jail doors would swing open with inmates leaving and those who put them there-cops, prosecutors, witnesses, prison guards and “victims” taking their place”
Tommy your “wisest and oldest” law professor was a left leaning half wit if he believed this crap. I’m not surprised he was making a living polluting the minds of impressionable young students.
“No one with a serious knowledge of the family, civil and criminal courts, the “war on drugs” or the prison industrial complex would take issue with that reality”
Ummm, Waaay off the mark Tommy. Go preach this garbage at your local Occupy commune.

Billy B.
Billy B.
9 years ago

I’m not a DePetro fan but I agree that the process needs to play out first. We should afford him the presumption of “innocent until proven guilty”, even though Mr. DePetro doesn’t often grant that courtesy to others.

Sammy in Arizona
Sammy in Arizona
9 years ago

acts which would land him in prison or dangling from the end of a rope in much of the world? “Predation”?Really? Posted by Tommy Cranston
It is well documented in psychiatry that extreme homophobia is driven by a sexual need unacknowledged by the person. Most folks who are truly hetero are not so driven by such hate
Tommy Cranston is an extreme example of this dynamic. In other words, watch out for people like Tommy. Their sickness can infect a whole country

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
9 years ago

Hey Sammy-
It is well established that left wingers who incessantly troll right wing blogs are driven by a right wing ideology unacknowledged by said troll.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
9 years ago

“No one with a serious knowledge of the family, civil and criminal courts, the “war on drugs” or the prison industrial complex would take issue with that reality”
Ummm, Waaay off the mark Tommy. Go preach this garbage at your local Occupy commune.
Posted by sierra1 at August 16, 2012 3:27 PM
Oh baby, I am (and this is NOT hyperbole) a couple of notches to the Right of Francisco Franco and it is waaay ON the mark.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
9 years ago

Lie detectors are actually quite accurate,the trouble is that they are not “fool proof”.
So much is context. I have several times seen women approached in “health clubs” by unknown men who open with “hey, your butt looks great”. This is greeted with a smile.
I rather assume female body builders get used to be squeezed here and there in the same way that black women get used to “Can I touch your hair?”.
Given the vagarities of human conduct, I would not care to be assigned to define, in specific, sexual harassment.
Has anyone else been observing the number of “harassment” suits coming out of Homeland Security”?
Speaking of “HLS”, there are some people who should know all about “unwanted touching”. Context again, if that is OK to board a plane, why isn’t it OK in an employment interview?

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