"Get your ass in here."
It's another day at the Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder's Office -- January 23, 2002, if you want to get picky -- and Leesa Sale needs to talk to her boss, clerk Tracy Baker. "Get your ass in here," she says.
Almost every American worker would like to say the same thing to his or her boss -- but that's because almost every American worker would like to kick his or her boss's ass. It's much less likely that any worker would want to touch, fondle, smell or #$%* that ass, all activities Sale and Baker discuss in their electronic correspondence. "Wet huh," writes Baker the next day, "Get in here and we'll play a little dare game. I MUST HAVE YOU. I AM VERY UNSETTLED. PPLLEEAASSEE."
No wonder things have gotten so sticky at the clerk's office.
Last Friday, Arapahoe County released 101 messages, most of them exchanges between Sale and Baker dating from January through July 2002, when the correspondence was discovered by an investigator researching a complaint filed by former chief deputy clerk Mary Whitley regarding Baker's workplace behavior. The released messages represent just a fraction of the Baker/Sale oeuvre, but these are the ones that Baker and Sale "effectively concede may be disclosed," according to their attorneys. All told, there are 622 missives, most of them "passionate and explicitly sexual," those attorneys say, but some also involving ticklish family matters, including references to Baker's three children and unlucky spouse. ("So did I tell you that I love you!" writes Sale. "Wow, so now it is time for us to have fun with the BITCH! Can YOU say she is no match for us?? If she wants the bedroom, fine...Move the bed downstairs!!!")
In last week's Colorado Court of Appeals ruling, following a year of legal maneuvering, the judges finally determined that the "Board of County Commissioners may release the contents of those 101 e-mails forthwith after redacting the names of those individuals involved in the sexual harassment claim." And Arapahoe County wasted no time. On Friday, it not only released the messages, but also offered some helpful categorization and commentary. For example: "Some of the messages demonstrate that because of their sexual relationship, Mr. Baker did not manage Ms. Sale the same way he would other employees. He allowed her to talk to him in a manner which typically is not appropriate in a work setting. Frequently, he refers to Ms. Sale as 'baby.'"
To be specific, he does so nine times, in messages like these:
"Please don't share that with Woodrow, he might get the wrong idea K? Baby I love and adore you more everyday."
"Hi baby, I know you're busy but when you're ready I'm READY"
"Baby thanks for talking with me this afternoon. You even told me you loved me in front of ___. I adore and miss you. CALL me if you need me or just let me know how you are. I'm going now to snuggle bear. Our future begins TODAY!"
"Baby you ok? You're stressing out, of course you're only going 10 different directions. Let us help you where we can. I love you, let me know what I can do K? You worry me."
"You know I think ___ did look at us differently as well and look at us with acceptance. ___ just wants me to be happy, that's what he kept saying when we talked earlier. I love you so much baby."
Oh, baby, baby. Most of these hypoglycemic messages read more like an excerpt from a Harlequin romance than Hustler. Baker has all the porn-again eagerness of a Sunday-school teacher who's just discovered a new meaning for resurrection. There are steamier exceptions, however:
"Had ___ not joined us I would have finished teasing you and masturbating for you," writes Sale. "OUR luck sucks, and I need to be with you."
"Tough to concentrate with those messages," says Baker. "While were talking with Jerry imagine me licking every inch of you until you scream F$*% me!"
And these are the messages Baker agreed to release? Has he no shame? Forget violating workplace etiquette -- clearly, Baker gave up on that the day he got his ass into Sale's office (and whatever else). But he could at least uphold some literary pornographic standards. Crib from Ulysses, for example. Or Jugs. As it is, reading through all the e-mails, with their snuggle bears and licking sessions, is enough to send you to the showers. Not to cool down, but to clean off the slime.
Even the janitors noticed the stench. "Oh my god!!!" writes Baker. "Maintenance thinks you and I are doing it."
Pity poor maintenance. Those workers may be the only people who have yet to complain to Arapahoe County, who have yet to file suit over the office's hostile environment. Not to mention inefficiency. "K," writes Sale, "I must bitch for 2/5 hours ___'s been looking thru the Boise catalog Does she now bookkeeping is in shambles&could she NOT research some of the stuff we discussed? And we wonder why I'm exhausted."
"I was just looking at my cell bill," Baker writes. "I only called you at the office 30 times and called your cell 12 times, amazing huh? @#$@ me K?"
Whitley has now been on paid administrative leave for eighteen months; Sale took her place in the $65,000-a-year deputy position and also clocked $40,000 in overtime. No wonder she's exhausted! Since July 2002, six more employees with the clerk's office have filed complaints; two are no longer in the county's employ, and the other four are also on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of investigations that could be concluded in the next few weeks. "We can't put those employees back to work at those positions," says Andrea Rasizer, communication-services director for Arapahoe County. "They want a paycheck, and they just want to work. They don't want to deal with this mess that Mr. Baker has created. That type of behavior should not go on in the workplace.
"He's had every opportunity to clean this up and fix this, and he's refused," she adds. "Now it's up to the voters to decide."
And to point voters in the right direction, want to bet that the county will release the results of those investigations before February 24, the day of Baker's recall election? Back in November 2002, a month after reports of Baker's e-mail exchanges first surfaced, the only opposition faced by the longtime Republican incumbent was Margaret Alia Denny, a Libertarian wiccan -- who still got over a third of the vote. This time, with the Democrats failing to make the ballot, Baker is up against Libertarian Travis Nicks and Republican Nancy Doty.
Election day can't come too soon for the Arapahoe County commissioners, who asked Baker to resign in October 2002, then sweetened their request with a hefty settlement offer last year. But Baker's hung on, supported by the love of his chief deputy...and downfall.
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The word "love" appears 24 times in the 101 e-mails (25, if you count the time someone named "Hercules" hijacked Sale's equipment to complain about the smell). The word "play" appears five. The word "work" appears four times in these workplace messages -- one of them when Baker admits he's "a little worked up at the moment. God, you are astonishing!!! I need to touch you." Tying at three are the words "vote" (this is the clerk's office, after all) and "touch." Although the act's often referred to, "fuck" never appears -- but then, some electronic systems can be touchy about profanity, and Sale and Baker settle for the time-honored combination of %*&!.
Still, there is the word "screw," once -- in this July 2 missive from Baker:
"The saga continues...Chris informed me that Lisa Pitts called him yesterday to inform him that a letter has been sent to the Republican party regarding our relationship. Screw em'!!!!"
The feeling's mutual.