Dial's Dirty Laundry

Last March, Eve Edwards took advantage of what she sensed was a grand opportunity.

She knew her ex-boyfriend, Jerry Ingalls, was immersed in a legal battle with his ex-wife--a top Dial Corporation executive named Joan Potter.

Edwards also knew Ingalls had been talking about suing Dial for allegedly conspiring with Potter to hide assets during his bitter divorce.

A few weeks earlier, Edwards had stolen a box of documents from Ingalls' home in Payson. The papers included copies of strategy memos Ingalls had faxed to his Phoenix lawyer--what is known in the legal trade as privileged attorney-client communication.

Edwards told her best friend that she'd also secretly been recording Ingalls' phone calls, and had taken at least one tape to Dial.

"Eve told me, 'I'll find out what all this stuff is worth to them [Dial Corp],'" the friend recalls.

On March 15, Edwards marched into the Dial Tower on North Central Avenue in Phoenix. She showed security personnel the purloined paperwork. And she told them that Ingalls had threatened to kill Joan Potter and company chieftain John Teets.

A guard took the materials from Edwards and signed a receipt for them.
The episode set into motion a stunning chain of events at Arizona's largest publicly owned firm, a Fortune 500 company with more than $3billion in annual revenue.

Until now, most of these events have been wrapped in a mantle of executive secrecy. Some details remain hidden. But during two months of research, New Times examined records in four states, conducted 23 interviews and reviewed private papers and tapes.

Those sources document a tale full of corporate intrigue and arrogance.
Among the highlights of the Dial soap opera:
* With the approval of its chief executive officer, John Teets, the company became enmeshed in an unorthodox business dealing that involved Potter, a high-end house and corporate funds. The dealing occurred while Potter's divorce from Jerry Ingalls was pending; it violated a judicial order and deprived Ingalls of thousands of dollars due as his share of community assets.

* As Ingalls was investigating his wife's hidden finances, Edwards delivered documents she had stolen from him to Dial. Within days, many sources say, Potter disappeared from Dial headquarters. Within months, the 46year-old Potter--the most powerful female executive in Dial history--retired. Three well-placed sources say Dial Corp paid Potter about $5 million when she retired, an extraordinary sum even for an executive of her stature.

* Within weeks after Potter retired a wealthy woman, Dial's board of directors stripped Teets of two high positions at the company. That ended a reign during which he had exercised almost total control.

The sudden retirement of Joan Potter has fueled rumors both in and out of Dial's Central Avenue headquarters.

By several accounts, Potter left Dial suddenly last spring--within days after Eve Edwards approached the firm. But John Teets didn't make her departure official until a terse internal memo dated July 26:

"Joan Ingalls [Potter], vice president of Human Resources, has elected early retirement effective July 31."

A Dial spokesman says Potter decided to retire after the company earlier this year "downsized" the human-resources unit. That explanation strikes many inside and outside Dial as spurious.

Potter was in apparent good health, and had been grossing about $500,000 a year since 1993. She worked directly for Teets, which meant she wielded great power at Dial. It was said that, when Potter spoke, it was as if Teets himself was speaking. Some believed she might even run Dial someday.

She was a key adviser to Dial's Executive Compensation Committee. The committee sets the annual pay packages of the firm's top-echelon employees--including Teets.

Buzz about Potter's mysterious departure has run rampant in Arizona's business community for months. It has ranged from rumors about a Teets-Potter romantic relationship gone sour to speculation that Dial bought her silence with a lucrative package after Potter threatened to file a lawsuit of an unspecified nature.

"I know the rumor [about an alleged affair] has been all over town, and it's just ridiculous," scoffs Dial spokesman William Peltier, speaking on behalf of Teets and the company. "I think Joan just wanted to get out and do something else."

Potter declined to respond to questions posed by New Times in two letters and several phone calls. Instead, Potter's attorney wrote December 1:

"[Potter] has asked us to inform you that there was no 'romance' between John Teets and her, that her relationship with Mr. Teets was solely professional, and that she will be very much offended if New Times prints an inaccurate story that invades her privacy and places her in a false light."

A few weeks after Potter's retirement, longtime Dial executive Andrew Patti replaced Teets as company president and chief operating officer. Teets still serves as chairman and chief executive officer, but most observers agree his wings have been clipped.

Dial press releases claimed that Patti's ascension marked the start of a transition of power. Teets is 62; Dial's mandatory executive retirement age is 65.

But the news floored longtime Dial watchers. They note that Teets is ranked behind only good friend Jerry Colangelo among the Valley's biggest movers and shakers. Sources inside Dial say Teets long has hinted that he'd like the directors to waive the mandatory age limit in his case.

"There's almost no way that the board would have done this to Teets unless something major inside the company has happened," says a Scottsdale stockbroker who follows Dial closely. "This is a guy who thinks he is Dial, and has had a very decent bottom-line track record to prove it."

No one on the Dial board would comment on whether Teets' dilution of power was linked to the Eve Edwards episode. A Dial spokesman says it wasn't a demotion, and it wasn't related to Edwards.

But the disturbing events in this story occurred on Teets' watch and, at least once, with his approval. Among the most questionable of Dial's acts was its acceptance of stolen material.

The firm apparently never told anyone outside the company that it had taken the material until Jerry Ingalls' attorney confronted the firm with a court subpoena.

In August, Dial returned 52 pages of Ingalls' papers, claiming those documents, and jewelry allegedly belonging to Joan Potter, amounted to all Edwards had given the firm.

But Ingalls' attorney, Rad Vucichevich, says a Dial lawyer told him in August that the firm had in its possession one tape of secretly recorded phone conversations involving Ingalls. Dial never has turned over the tape, Vucichevich adds.

Unfortunately, Eve Edwards isn't around to say whether any tapes were part of the package she delivered to Dial last March. The 50-year-old mother of four committed suicide July 2 at her Payson-area ranch. She had taken an overdose of pills. She left no note.

Those who know Joan Potter describe her with adjectives commonly applied to corporate executives: bright, relentless, cunning and, at times, ruthless.

What might be seen as unusual about that description is, of course, Potter's gender. Before she retired, Potter was the only female listed as an executive officer at Dial--a status that gave her both large financial incentives and great power.

Potter's rise inside Dial was of Horatio Alger proportions. In 1981, she went to work as manager of compensation and systems for Greyhound Food Management--a subsidiary of Dial. Her starting salary was about $35,000.

That year, the 32-year-old Potter had married for the second time, to a businessman named Jerry Ingalls. Ingalls had met his future wife in 1976, when he was an executive for a Pennsylvania dental-supply concern. Ingalls had hired Potter to be that firm's personnel director.

By Ingalls' account, Potter excelled on the job: She always was willing to go the extra yard for the company.

Separated from his first wife, Ingalls fancied the attractive Potter. He says the two dated after she took a job with a different firm. They then went their separate ways.

Ingalls moved to Arizona in 1979. Joan Potter moved to Phoenix in 1981 and went to work for Dial.

The two rekindled their friendship, and later married.
For a time, their careers prospered. But things changed financially--for the worse, in Jerry Ingalls' case--in the late 1980s.

According to court documents, Ingalls' income peaked at $165,847 in 1986. He sold a retail chain of optical stores in 1988, and the next year netted just $7,601.

In 1990, Ingalls opened a firm that consulted for companies considering expansion in the Far East. One major client was the Transportation Manufacturing Corporation, a Dial subsidiary.

Ingalls recalls a dinner that year in London with his wife, John Teets and Teets' wife, Nancy: "We spoke for hours about how Dial could have a far greater presence in Japan and China. He [Teets] expressed interest. I was excited by the possibilities."

But an insurance-fraud lawsuit against Ingalls concerning his former chain of optical stores damaged his finances, and his marriage. That case settled in 1991, when Ingalls agreed to return $325,000 to the insurer.

Meanwhile, Joan Potter's career and income skyrocketed. In 1992, she earned $326,164, or about ten times her starting salary of a decade earlier.

By 1992, Potter had become Dial's vice president of human resources, a top-level position. She had proved that an able, determined female could flourish in the upper reaches of a major American corporation.

Perhaps most important to her success at Dial was the blessing of CEO John Teets. Since about 1990, Teets had been Potter's supervisor. He personally recommended her salary increases and bonuses to the Executive Compensation Committee at Dial. The committee approved each hike.

Potter stayed in Teets' good graces in the traditional manner--she did her master's bidding and did it well. Starting in 1990, her tasks included collection of data to justify Teets' annual compensation package with company directors and stockholders. He earned about $5 million in 1994.

"She started to fret constantly--'How am I going to sell the board on paying him so much more?'" says ex-husband Ingalls, now 52. "Her job was to build a case for him, year after year. And Joan knows what she's doing. He was her ticket to the very top."

Like most CEOs, Teets is known to prize loyalty in his subordinates. Joan Potter fit the bill perfectly.

"I remember Joan before she was a big shot," says Peter Samuell, who married a cousin of Potter and was a partner in Ingalls' consulting business.

"She was warm and had common sense. Most competent. She'd shake her head in disbelief when she talked about the millions John Teets was making. Then he hired her to make sure he got more. She became his golden girl, and she stopped shaking her head."

Teets became even mightier as the company's position improved in the late 1980s. With more power came more money--and even more money.

It was Joan Potter's job to keep it coming.
She succeeded: Teets is the highest-paid executive at a public firm in Arizona. Fortune magazine ranks his pay package in the top 15 percent of CEOs nationwide.

But there have been naysayers. In early 1992, the California Public Employees' Retirement System--CalPERS--publicly asked Dial and 11 other firms it invests in to reduce the "excessive" compensation of executives.

The $68 billion pension fund, which manages and invests retirement money for California employees, holds great sway in corporate America. A CalPERS spokesperson says Potter and Teets defended Dial's pay scale for executives at a meeting in Sacramento on June 18, 1992.

The next day, a Dial press release triumphantly announced resolution of the public compensation dispute. Dial no longer was a CalPERS target.

At the end of 1992, Potter got a $108,000 bonus atop her annual salary, bringing her income forthat year to $326,164.

Stock options--a management perk that pays off with deeply discounted company shares--would push her to even greater financial heights.

Teets attached a note to Potter's 1992 compensation portfolio:
"The future does certainly hold many things," the CEO noted. "As an executive, you must always remember to take time to reflect on each milestone--not just the feats, but the failures as well."

The words were wise. For, as 1993 began, Joan Potter's personal life was in tatters.

"Through all the complications of life--very simply, I love you and always will."

--Joan Potter to Jerry Ingalls,
January 1991

"I will probably never love anyone in my life like I loved Joan."
--Jerry Ingalls, December 1995

It's usually senseless to try to apportion blame at the end of a marriage. Suffice to say, this couple's demise had more than enough blame to go around.

The breakup evolved into a War of the Roses, without the physical violence. In this war, however, typical roles were reversed: The wife had become the breadwinner, on whom the husband had become financially dependent.

For numerous reasons, including Jerry Ingalls' poor health, his consulting business was stymied.

Potter filed to divorce him in January 1992. There were no prenuptial agreements or children to consider, so the litigation revolved around dividing the assets.

A sign that this parting would not be amicable emerged one day soon after Potter filed the papers. She had moved out of the couple's Scottsdale home, which also was serving as Jerry Ingalls' business office. He was in Japan.

That day, Peter Samuell--who was working with Ingalls in the budding consulting firm--says he was lured to the Dial Tower.

"A gentleman wanted me to come to Dial Tower to explain some expenses we had submitted for our work," recalls Samuell, a native of England. "This had never happened before, but off I went. I'm explaining and explaining. Several hours later, I finally made it back to the office--the house--and a guard there wouldn't let me go in. Movers were loading a van. I told him, 'I work here.' He said, 'Sorry, sir.' Then Joan walked out of the house and said, 'Hi, Peter.'"

Potter later admitted she'd removed furniture and other belongings from the house. It wouldn't be the last such event during the divorce.

She retained Mick LaVelle as her attorney; Ingalls hired Rad Vucichevich. Both lawyers are experienced and skilled in the courtroom.

Vucichevich quickly noticed that Joan Potter had a potent ally in her corner: Dial Corp. The thick case file reflects the greater-than-normal difficulties he had in getting relevant data on Potter's finances from Dial.

Vucichevich deposed Joan Potter in August 1993, a month before the couple went to trial in Maricopa County Superior Court. The deposition was revealing.

For starters, there was confusion over her education. A 1990 Dial press release indicated Potter had graduated from Temple University with a bachelor's degree in psychology.

"Did you graduate from there?" Vucichevich asked her.
"Yes, I did."
"What year did you graduate?"
"It was 1976, I believe."
Vucichevich revisited the issue a bit later.
"What was the year you said you graduated?"
"I believe it was 1973, '74, something like that ..."

A spokesperson for the Philadelphia school tells New Times that Potter took classes there in 1973, but never graduated.

During the deposition, Potter admitted she'd sneaked into Ingalls' home twice in the preceding months. She said she'd broken in "through the skylight" in April 1993, to retrieve a box of family photographs.

Then, one night in May 1993, she let herself in through an unlocked door. Jerry Ingalls was at his son's graduation ceremony at Arizona State University. The coast should have been clear for Potter. But it wasn't.

"I believed that Jerry had documents that belonged to me, part of my legal files," Potter testified. "I went in, I looked for my files. ... Then other people entered the house."

The others were Ruth and Orville Duvall, acquaintances of Ingalls. Ruth Duvall recalled the incident in a May 26, 1993, affidavit.

"I noticed a woman running out of Mr. Ingalls' office, carrying a handful of documents," Duvall wrote. "The woman ran out the back door, and my husband chased after her. ... She then exited the house andjumped over a fence and ran toward the street. A black Mercedes-Benz vehicle pulled up alongside her, and she got in the car and they drove away."

"Did you find any legal documents you were looking for?" Vucichevich asked Potter at her deposition.

"No, I did not."
The getaway driver was Joan Potter's mother.

Joan Potter rented a condo for several months after she filed for divorce. During the summer of 1992, however, she heard about a lovely home for sale in the Biltmore area.

Purchasing it posed a problem. Arizona is a community-property state, and, unless otherwise agreed, married couples share equally in assets and liabilities until divorced.

Barry Silverman, the Superior Court judge hearing the divorce case, had instructed the two to make no major purchases until it ended.

But Potter was resourceful. First, in August 1992, she agreed to lease the home from its owner for $2,000 a month. She also put down $15,000 in earnest money, with an option to buy the home after six months. By then, she figured, her divorce would be final.

Potter already had contacted Maenner Relocation Inc. (MRI), a Nebraska firm that assists Dial Corp with employee transfers. MRI's president signed an escrow contract with the owner of the Biltmore home within a few days of when Potter signed her lease option. The contract said escrow would close six months later.

Potter was hedging her bets. If her divorce became final within the six-month window, she'd buy the house herself. If not, MRI would buy the house and lease it to her until the divorce case ended.

By early 1993, it was apparent that the divorce wasn't close to resolution. That January 11, Potter called Cheryl Grafentin, MRI's relocations manager.

"She was in the process of a divorce," Grafentin later testified, "had contracted to purchase a property, and, because of the divorce proceedings, had asked if we would purchase the house. Then she would have the option of purchasing it back from us after the divorce was completed."

Grafentin said she told Potter she'd do whatever Dial--MRI's client--wanted: "Joan called me back and verified that the corporation had ... instructed [us] to buy [it]."

In February 1993, MRI did so, for $300,000, and returned the $15,000 in earnest money to Potter. Though nothing was in writing, the firm became Potter's "landlord"--or so the Ingalls camp believed.

When Rad Vucichevich deposed Joan Potter in August 1993, he asked her about the Biltmore house. Among other claims, she said her rent payments were just that, and weren't building equity for her.

"Is Dial aware of this transaction?" Vucichevich asked her.
"Mr. Teets or anyone else?"

"Mr. Teets is aware of the transaction. Because there is no cost to Dial, he did not object to it."

"So now you have told me about this transaction?"
"Yes, I have."
But Jerry Ingalls, as always, was suspicious. With the September 1993 divorce trial just days away, a private investigator working for Ingalls posed as a real estate agent in a phone call to MRI. The investigator, Guy White, asked if the Biltmore house was for sale.

Cheryl Grafentin left a phone message for White.
"The unit is not for sale," she said. "It actually is occupied by the owner. [MRI] did a favor for one of our corporate clients with regard to that particular property. The owner ... will be taking title sometime in the future."

Grafentin explained in her deposition a few weeks later how the house deal had been structured:

"[We] purchase the house and then, obviously, we handle all of the expenses on the property. Those are billed to Dial. Joan would be leasing the property and at such time in the future [we'd] possibly [be] reselling the property to Joan."

"So, in effect, you were just acting as a middleman for Dial?" Rad Vucichevich asked her.

"Yes, sir."
Court records show MRI billed Dial about $18,000 for expenses and costs through September 1993. The invoices included monthly interest on the home loan, property taxes, insurance and neighborhood-association fees. (It isn't known how much Dial paid from October 1993 until Potter bought the home in early 1994.)

Grafentin said Dial never disputed the billings, which her company sent to Joan Potter's human-resources unit for approval.

But this previously undisclosed arrangement was only the half of it. Court records reveal that MRI credited about $60,000 to Potter--her supposed "rent" payments--against the property's original $300,000 purchase price.

The $60,000 had come from community property, half of which still legally belonged to Jerry Ingalls. When Potter finally bought the home, the equity she'd secretly built in it allowed her to seek a reduced loan of $240,000.

New Times spoke with five seasoned divorce attorneys about the Biltmore situation. Each expressed amazement that a publicly owned corporation of Dial's stature would have agreed to this arrangement.

"Community property is community property, no matter how you try to hideit," says Iva Hirsch, a Phoenix attorney. "One spouse playing financial games with another spouse doesn't shock me. But this--with all of the questions it raises about the corporation's motivations--sure does."

Dial's version does not comport with the public record on the Biltmore house deal.

"Evidently, the divorce went on longer than what she expected," says spokesman William Peltier, "and, evidently, we helped her with a couple of mortgage payments--which she subsequently paid back. I think they lent her the money to do that. That's it."

But Potter's own mortgage payments didn't start until after the divorce was final. The Biltmore deal predates that by more than a year.

After three days of trial, Potter and Ingalls settled the divorce out of court. The settlement included Dial stock and $3,000 in monthly alimony payments from Potter to Ingalls, ending in March 1995.

But the litigation was reborn in February 1994, when Ingalls claimed Potter owed him half of a $150,000 incentive bonus Dial had paid her in 1993. New information about Dial's role in the divorce seeped out as the lawyers litigated the bonus issue.

The court would learn that Dial had withheld Potter's stock-option offerings and bonuses until after the divorce case ended--and with it her community-property obligations to give half of those assets to Jerry Ingalls. And there would be the bizarre matter of stolen documents and Dial Corp.

Despite Joan Potter's nagging legal problems, her career soared in 1994. That January, John Teets announced her appointment as an executive officer, which made her one of 22 "insiders"--directors and officers--at the 29,000-employee firm.

By August 1994, according to the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, Potter had become one of the largest of the "insider" shareholders at the firm.

By the end of the year, Dial informed the SEC that Potter held 76,000 shares of "beneficial ownership" in the company, worth about $1.5 million.

Her relationship with Teets seemed as strong as ever, and the two appeared in a 60Minutes story in October 1994. The story used Potter and Teets to make its point that Congress overregulates corporate pension programs, but allows U.S. senators and representatives rosy retirement packages. It portrayed outgoing Arizona senator Dennis DeConcini as a prime example of congressional excess.

Meanwhile, Jerry Ingalls was living in Payson, surrounded by mementos of happier times. Despite the rancorous divorce, he kept a photo of his ex-wife on a table in his study.

His Far East consulting business had shriveled, in part because his contract with the Dial subsidiary hadn't been renewed. Though he wasn't employed--still isn't--Ingalls wasn't broke, thanks largely to the generous divorce settlement.

Then, in early 1994, Eve Edwards came into his life.
Edwards was a spirited ex-model who didn't look as if she were pushing 50, which she was. Though she came across at first to acquaintances as bubbly and carefree, she was in the throes of her own difficult divorce from a Phoenix businessman.

Edwards had a son from the first of her four marriages. She and her last husband had adopted three girls together. But the marriage hadn't worked out; coincidentally, Rad Vucichevich also was her divorce lawyer.

Edwards was living on a ranch in Flowing Springs, near Payson, when she met Jerry Ingalls. The two became an item, and, for months, spent much of their time together.

Edwards and Ingalls broke up in January 1995. But in late February, she asked him if she and her daughters could stay at his home over the weekend. He was going out of town, and agreed.

Ingalls says Edwards stole many things from him that weekend, including a box of legal papers and other personal documents. Ingalls notified Rad Vucichevich, who made an unsuccessful attempt to convince Edwards to return the stolen materials. For that and other reasons, the attorney dropped her as a client around this time.

On March 15, Edwards went to Dial with the documents and--she later told her best friend, Kay Cook--tapes she had secretly recorded of Jerry Ingalls' phone conversations with his attorney. Edwards also relayed to Dial the alleged death threats that Ingalls had made against Joan Potter and John Teets.

(Eve Edwards' estranged husband, Bob, says Eve told him she'd given the documents to Joan Potter personally. Dial spokesman William Peltier says he's been informed that Edwards did meet with Potter that day.)

Cook, a resident of Las Vegas, would become an important player in the events that followed. She and Eve Edwards had met in the mid-1960s when they were young Air Force wives based in Clovis, New Mexico. Three decades later, they remained the best of friends.

Cook says Edwards told her about the March 15 meeting with Dial shortly after it happened. The two friends were supposed to have dinner that night at Ruth's Chris Steak House in Scottsdale.

"It was supposed to be just me and her," Cook tells New Times, "but two young guys were there. She tried to set me up with one of them--'He works at the Dial Corporation'--but he was half my age. I left and called her later.

"That's when she told me she'd given Dial all this stuff Jerry had been accumulating for a lawsuit against Dial. She said they'd given her a grand tour of the building. She didn't say whether they paid her or not."

As the days passed, Cook says, Edwards told her more:
"She told me she'd had a phone jack put in at Jerry's and that she'd be getting into his house through an unlocked window to pick up tapes ..."

Cook, by the way, is no friend of Jerry Ingalls. In fact, she says she tired of Ingalls soon after she met him through Edwards.

"He would ramble on about his ex-wife and this guy John Teets," she recalls. "I had never heard of Joan or Teets until he came along. He had an obsession going, and it got old fast."

As an example of Jerry Ingalls' "obsession," Cook recalls an incident at Ingalls' home in Payson in late 1994: "Jerry was watching TV with Eve, and he was cleaning a gun--an unloaded gun. Teets and Joan had come on the screen. I think he was on his third or fourth Crown Royal. He pointed the gun at thetube and said, 'Bang, bang.' That was about it. I saw this with my own eyes."

Responds Jerry Ingalls: "Never happened. Never happened."
Sometime this spring, Cook alerted Rad Vucichevich about her friend's new relationship with Dial. She didso, Cook says, because she knows and respects Vucichevich, not to help Jerry Ingalls.

The attorney's first instinct was to demand of Dial what the company knew and when it knew it. Instead, Vucichevich did nothing at first.

His reasoning was sound: The matter before the court was Potter's $150,000 bonus money. He recognized that he might be able to use the Eve Edwards/Dial link as leverage for a settlement.

Neither Dial nor Joan Potter's attorney said anything to Vucichevich about the documents. This infuriated him.

The sanctity of the relationship between attorney and client is similar to that of doctor and patient, or priest and parishioner. Phoenix attorney Judith Wolfe, an expert in domestic-relations law and legal ethics, says Dial's decision to sit on the information troubles her.

"You just don't keep this kind of thing--especially attorney-client information--to yourself," says Wolfe. "The minute those documents came into Dial's possession, someone at Dial should have said, 'We have a situation.' To do otherwise is a serious breach.

"The level of corporate arrogance here was incredible."
Asked for an explanation, Dial's Peltier first responded: "Our lawyers tell me they never received any client-privileged information whatsoever."

But New Times has seen the documents and assured Peltier that attorney-client materials were turned over to Dial. In a later interview, the spokesman tried a different explanation.

"Okay," he said, "the lawyers say that no one of any responsibility or anyone in our legal department ever looked at the stuff or knew what this woman had been up to. I know the stuff was here on the premises, but they apparently didn't know what to do with it."

In other words, a citizen handed over documents relevant to a pending court case and reported an alleged death threat against the company boss--and no one in authority at Dial knew about it.

In late June, Edwards underwent bowel surgery. Kay Cook stayed with her at the hospital, worried more about her friend's depressed state of mind than her physical condition.

"She was constantly talking about wanting to die by her own hand," Cook says, "but they released her from the hospital anyway. The next day, she took a bunch of pills and just went to sleep."

Kay Cook found the body. Gila County sheriff's detective George Ratliff investigated the case, then deemed it a suicide.

"There's nothing to indicate anything other than a suicide," Ratliff says. "My main question at first was whether we had a death related to her surgery. We didn't. She wasn't a drinker, so no one could have slipped her a Mickey Finn. She was just very depressed. The word 'Dial' never came up in my investigation."

Cook says she sorted through Edwards' belongings after the suicide. That, she says, is when she found the tapes:

"There were boxes and boxes of them. Most of them were Eve talking dirty to unknown men. I hadn't quite believed her with all this wiretapping talk. But I heard what she must have given to Dial--Jerry and Rad talking. I said, 'Holy cow! She wasn't kidding.'"

Cook, however, says she burned all the tapes in an impulsive moment.
"I didn't want anyone, especially her kids, to listen to these things and think that was Eve," she says. "Until she got mentally sick, she was a great gal, a fun gal. All this James Bond stuff with Dial was ridiculous."

On July 11, Rad Vucichevich launched a frontal assault on Dial. As part of his attempt to reopen the divorce case between Ingalls and Potter, Vucichevich served a subpoena to the firm, demanding to know everything about its contacts with Eve Edwards.

"Many boxes of privileged and confidential documents belonging to [Jerry Ingalls]," he wrote, "including attorney-client work product, as well as illegal tape-recorded attorney-client telephone conversations, are believed now to be wrongfully in the possession and control of The Dial Corp."

Vucichevich was on a fishing expedition of sorts. Dial wasn't biting.
"The information sought is irrelevant to any issue in the marriage," the firm's lawyer argued, "and the information sought would subject Dial to annoyance, embarrassment, oppression and undue burden ..."

In August, Dial returned 52 pages of documents, which included the client-to-attorney letter and the other personal material. But the firm never has officially acknowledged it had any of the recordings that Eve Edwards claimed she'd given to Dial.

That doesn't sit right with Vucichevich, who repeats that an attorney for Dial told him that a tape did exist.

"You know the old saying, 'Where there's smoke, there's fire,'" says Vucichevich. "Their lawyer told me there was a tape, okay? And if there's one tape, how many are there?"

This spring--not long after Eve Edwards introduced herself to Dial--Joan Potter left work one day and never returned.

The 24-story building was abuzz. This wasn't just another big shot biting the corporate dust: This was Joan Potter, JohnTeets' right-hand woman and a force to be reckoned with. Employees speculated over lunch in the second-floor cafeteria and over smokes in the beautiful Dial gardens. But no one in authority was saying anything.

At first, talk was that she'd taken a leave to care for her ailing mother. But weeks turned into months, and the rumor mill wouldn't stop.

One Dial employee tells New Times that she asked a colleague what was up with Joan Potter. She says the colleague put an index finger to her lips and said, "Don't say that name around here. Mr. Teets is liable to hear about it." The reference to Teets ended further discussion about the situation.

Things moved quickly after Eve Edwards died and Rad Vucichevich put Dial on notice that he knew about the stolen documents:

Joan Potter settled the dispute with her ex-husband over her bonus; she agreed to pay him $50,000.

Potter officially retired, after she inked asweetheart deal with the firm. Three sources tell New Times that Potter received a huge financial settlement uponher departure--probably about $5million.

The settlement is said tosurpass the normal"golden parachute" in place for executives of her stature and experience. (The sources include a former Dial employee with direct connections to upper management, a veteran attorney close to a key player in the case, and a current Dial employee.)

Dial's Peltier provides New Times with a different explanation ofevents surrounding Potter's retirement.

"Very simply, we've outsourced a bunch of stuff," he says. "In the process of downsizing the human-resources department, they moved [Potter's job] down from an officer level. Joan was a valued employee, and they wanted to keep her, but she got a retirement package, and I guess it was a nice enough package that she decided to leave. I don't know of any falling-out with Mr. Teets or any special deals."

Several sources close to Dial--not anyone in the Jerry Ingalls camp, incidentally--say that explanation sounds ridiculous.

"So they were going to 'un-insider' the highest-ranking woman in company history--John Teets' protegee--because they were, quote, 'downsizing' a department?" says a Phoenix corporate attorney. "I know Bill Peltier, and he's an honest, decent shlub. But who is he kidding?"

Though Peltier claims there wasn't an unusually large settlement, it is certain that Potter has been spending large sums of money since she retired. County records in Arizona show that on August 18--three weeks after she retired--Potter paid off a $78,500 loan on another Valley residence. Five days later, she paid off the remaining $200,000 or so on the Biltmore house.

On October 31, Potter paid $380,000 in cash to buy a home in Laguna Niguel, California. Orange County title records indicate she owns that home free and clear.

Jerry Ingalls has retained Scottsdale attorney Barry Hart to prepare a lawsuit on his behalf against Dial Corp and John Teets. Ingalls says it should be filed any day.

The lawsuit will attempt to delve into the events that preceded Potter's retirement--Dial's involvement in the purchase of the Biltmore house, its delaying of a lucrative bonus and stock options for Potter, and the company's acceptance of stolen property. If successful, the suit also could answer questions that have fueled the relentless gossip about Potter and Teets and led to such disparate results: Teets got his wings clipped. Potter got the multimillion-dollar settlement. Dial spokesman Peltier seems eager to tie things up and forget they ever happened.

"I've never heard of such things in my entire life," Peltier says. "It's some of the wildest stuff I've ever heard. This is a book.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin