A Tucson pizza guy was fired after being accused of throwing dough balls at and drawing a chalk penis on the outside wall of Magpies Gourmet Pizza on Broadway.
While the premise may be a tad humorous, Casey Lemme’s story is anything but.
Lemme is 30, just finished his bachelor’s in history at University of Arizona and is a well-liked fellow. He has three dogs, a sweet wife and has worked at Magpies for the past 10 years while he completed his degree.
But his denial meant nothing. Another worker, who was supervisor on the day of the chalk penis incident, was also slated to be fired over it. She was instead tipped off in advance and simply never came back to work.
Lemme had no clue when he arrived to work his 4 p.m. shift on Sept. 27 that he would be immediately called into the office and axed.
He said Magpies President Mike Acedo was at the Broadway location to do the honors.
“He told me somebody from the property management company called and saw me outside drawing penises on the wall,” Lemme said. “I was throwing dough balls, apparently, as well.”
Lemme asked Acedo to view the videotape from the outdoor security camera but said he refused.
Acedo did not wish to comment on the incident when I called him, but did say something to the effect of “We are happy with the outcome” which followed “company procedure.” He said there was no videotape.
He also mentioned the dough balls and chalk penis drawings were a recurring theme and the person responsible admitted to it, but would not say if that person were Lemme.
“Yes, I wrote the words ‘I like chalk,’ on the pavement,” Lemme said he told him, “but I assure you have not drawn a penis or thrown dough balls. That’s childish and I don’t really have the time. I have work to do.”
Lemme said chalk was always kept in the office and finding chalk drawings or writing was not uncommon, but he has never seen a chalk penis.
In a last bid to clear his name, Lemme went down to the corporate office after his firing, even though he didn’t think it would do much good.
“I told them, ‘If you don’t want me working there, fine, but I can’t have this on my record,’” he said.
No dice. Lemme will instead be haunted by the dough balls and chalk penis.
“He is wrongfully accused and now he faces problems when applying for a new job since his name has been tarnished with this filthy lie,” his wife Louise Nilsson wrote in an e-mail. She’s originally from Sweden and they are living off the savings from selling her house there until Casey finds a new job.
“Is there no rights for workers in this country? Why is it that businesses can do what they want to innocent workers and have their future ruined because they feel like it? I don’t understand how there is nothing that protects the worker from this kind of thing.”
Good questions, Louise.
While researching dumb reasons people get fired, I found they run the gamut to “position eliminated” to “not a good fit.”
The former can hold true even if someone was hired to do the exact same or similar job and the company slaps on a different title. The latter can be a catchall for pretty much anything at all.
One woman was fired for refusing to sign a written reprimand for something she denied doing.
Sure, there’s unemployment, which pays a ridiculous fraction of our salary and sometimes gets denied. Who knows what the outcome would be over the dough balls and chalk incident.
All Lemme knows is it’s time to move forward. And be glad that Brooklyn Pizza Company finally beat out Magpies as Tucson Weekly’s Best of Tucson pick for 2009.
Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who has never been fired for graffiti although it did once really freak out one of her former bosses. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com. E-mail email@example.com.
What do you think?
Have you or someone you know ever been unfairly fired? What happened?
What’s the dumbest reason you know of someone getting fired?
What would you do if you were Casey?
PLEASE NOTE: Casey’s last name is Lemme. It was originally posted incorrectly as Nilsson, which is his wife’s last name.