BY CLARK KAUFFMAN • CKAUFFMAN@DMREG.COM • FEBRUARY 19, 2010
A Des Moines man is accused of unwittingly leaving his boss a voice-mail message documenting a drug deal in which he was involved.
State records indicate that Joseph Stankiewicz was on medical leave from NAPA Auto Parts in November when he called the company's human resources director, Carolyn Miller, and left a message on her voice-mail system.
When Stankiewicz finished his message, he allegedly failed to disconnect his phone properly and Miller's voice mail continued to record everything in the vicinity of Stankiewicz's phone.
The recording captured a freewheeling, profanity-laced conversation between two men who NAPA officials concluded were Stankiewicz and a man named Donny. On the tape, the two men discuss money that one of the men owed the other for prescription narcotics. The two also discuss another trade involving 22 pills of OxyContin or Percocet, two addictive painkillers.
Miller listened to her voice mail the day after Stankiewicz left his message. After discussing the matter with the company's legal counsel, NAPA Auto Parts officials decided to fire Stankiewicz for violating a company policy that prohibits the illicit sale of drugs.
Stankiewicz said Thursday that his doctor had been prescribing him Percocet and he has a friend named Donny. But he said that while the first part of the recording was the message he left for Miller, the second part of the message involving the drug deal didn't include him.
"I don't have a clue where they got the rest of that message," he said. "And, you know, I'd have to be pretty stupid not to hang up my phone."
At a recent state hearing dealing with his request for unemployment benefits, Stankiewicz testified that Des Moines Police Detective Rahn Bjornson investigated the matter and determined there was no evidence of wrongdoing. Stankiewicz argued that NAPA officials wanted to fire him because of a recent workers' compensation claim that he filed.
Administrative Law Judge Steven Wise denied Stankiewicz's request for unemployment benefits, saying he was absolutely convinced Stankiewicz was the man heard on the recording.
"The voice sounds the same, and he begins the conversation by telling Donny he had to call his job and if (human resources) called back, to be quiet while he talked to her," Wise observed.
It's not the first time an inadvertent voice-mail message has led to a firing.
In 2006, Thomas Adams of Estherville was carrying a cell phone on which he unknowingly pushed a series of buttons that triggered a call to his boss at Stylecraft Services in Milford. The call went directly to voice mail, which then recorded Adams' conversation with a group of friends about a work-related injury he hadn't reported to the company.
The call led to Adams being tested for drug use and to his eventual dismissal.
In 2004, Joseph C. Smith of Council Bluffs was fired from MC Trenching Co. in Nebraska after he mistakenly called his boss, thinking it was a friend's number that he had dialed. When the call went to voice mail, Smith left a profane message about his boss, saying, "The (expletive) is starting to (expletive) me off."
In California, a million-dollar lawsuit involving inadvertent voice-mailing has been working its way through the court system for eight years. It stems from an incident in which a lawyer for Marvell Semiconductors called a lawyer for Jasmine Networks and left an innocuous voice-mail message, then failed to realize that he hadn't hung up his phone.
Jasmine's voice-mail recording captured Marvell's attorney speaking to two colleagues about the case. According to court records, the three "openly discussed the theft of Jasmine's trade secrets and the unlawful hiring of the engineering group, as well as the potential consequence of jail for the conduct."
Jasmine sued Marvell, and its lawyers succeeded in getting a judge to allow the use of the recording at trial. After eight years of delays, dismissals and appeals, the case has yet to be tried.
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