A Secretary's Revenge

Deborah Vasquez, a secretary in the Attorney General's Office, overstepped her authority to help a kidnaped child. After being upbraided, she spread fantasy and half-truth that have been used to discredit the attorney general's top assistant, Rob Carey.

Vasquez simply projected that if Carey was jetting off to the mountains, he must be skiing. That's what people like Rob Carey did with their weekends. Skiing suited her imagination, and her version of the story, better.

Carey didn't stop thinking about the brief on the flight back from Colorado or on the way into work that morning.

He says it was his first Supreme Court brief, and he wanted to tweak it until the last possible second. He was that possessed.

Of course he was possessed. It was his personality. In high school, wrestlers like Carey are the fanatics who drop and add large numbers of pounds by obsessing every minute of the day, for an entire season, on their diet, their conditioning, their iron pumping. And then, when they "make weight," they go out and fight.

Vasquez and Carey both agree on what happened next.
When the office printer malfunctioned as Vasquez attempted to use it, Carey erupted at the secretary, who was responsible for keeping it serviced.

"Get the goddamned printer fixed, Deborah."
When Carey returned to his office, Vasquez handed the computer disk with Carey's brief on it to her daughter Marisa, with instructions that she locate another printer in a separate government agency that shares the same office building.

You have to walk the labyrinth of the Attorney General's Office, devoid of decoration and uniform in its cost-cutting drabness, seemingly designed to defy one's hope of locating true magnetic north, to understand Carey's pallor when he stepped out of his office at 11:40 a.m. and learned that a teenager was wandering the hallways with his first Supreme Court brief in search of a government printer.

Carey ordered Vasquez to find her daughter. Now.
For Vasquez, the problem was not her judgment, but his.
How could he have displayed his annoyance in front of a child?

When Vasquez filed for unemployment benefits after resigning from the Attorney General's Office, she recalled the Anna Ott episode for the hearing officer. She also brought Marisa, her only witness, to testify about Carey's breach of manners when his Supreme Court brief went missing.

Rob Carey's reaction to Vasquez's handling of the Supreme Court brief and the kidnaping situation was by the book; it also displayed a kind of emotional insensitivity that plagues people whose priority is achieving, not nurturing.

Sometimes, you need to throw the bookout the window, but Carey is comfortable with his agenda and the manner in which he checks off the items on his legal pad.

"I am self-confident, and I'm aggressive," Carey said to describe his office modus operandi. "I see things, black and white. I get it done, one way or the other, bottom line, I get it done."

But if his reaction to Vasquez's overstepping was harsh, it was harshest at first blush. He was not totally unmindful that Vasquez's actions during the Ott kidnaping were the result of a heart that beat too strong.

After Vasquez ran from the office following his criticism, Carey approached one of his division chiefs, Sydney Davis, and asked if Vasquez could be transferred into her office to take consumer-fraud calls. Carey hoped that position might satisfy her urge to help people.

Davis agreed to accept Vasquez.
Vasquez acknowledges the offer of a transfer, but says Carey would have made her life miserable no matter where she went in the Attorney General's Office.

Carey's thoughtful gesture was not a quirk.
John MacDonald, director of intergovernmental affairs at the Attorney General's Office, is disgusted by the hard image of Carey that has emerged in the media, and exasperated that the man refuses to defend himself. He tells a story that he wants to take back as soon as the words leave his lips.

"We have a young secretary at the Attorney General's [Office] who is terminally ill. The state allows you to donate your own leave time to someone in this situation. The average donation is four to six hours. Ten is atypical.

"Carey, who has never even met this woman, donated 150 hours of his time. When you leave state service, you take that accumulated leave with you. All that money is like a savings account, which is how everyone treats it. And because Rob makes a very good salary, that was a lot of money. Later, he donated another 50 hours."

No sooner had MacDonald finished than he said abruptly, "You can't print that. No one knows about it. Rob would be furious ifthat appeared in a newspaper. He's veryquiet about that sort of thing. I only know about it from trying to sort through and make sense of Deborah's files after sheleft. That's where I found the paperwork on the leave time."

It would take a full week before MacDonald relented and allowed the information to be published.

And Carey's acts of kindness are not always directed to faceless strangers who, after all, could not vex him. He has also gone to bat for Vasquez.

According to several supervisors who worked under Carey, and all of the othersecretaries who labored alongside Vasquez, she would have been fired long before she left, except for her boss's tolerance.

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