Veolia Transportation Subpoenas Records From Yahoo, Union Boss, Others in Search of Who Leaked Unflattering Internal E-Mails

While Veolia Transportation, the company that operates Phoenix city buses, is in the midst of contentious negotiations with the bus drivers' union, corporate executives are dropping subpoenas to gain access to union computers.

Corporate execs also got court approval to sift through records from Google, Yahoo, and Qwest to accomplish a mission -- track down who leaked a batch of inappropriate internal company e-mails.

The e-mails, authored by Jim Wolf, one of the company's regional vice presidents, ended up in the hands of someone who forwarded them to the entire Phoenix City Council and to other city officials, to local media, and to company employees.


In the e-mails, written while Veolia was competing for the Phoenix city-bus contract, Wolf makes comments about giving a substantial raise to "lock-in" a black Veolia manager because of her friendship with Debbie Cotton, Phoenix's Public Transit Director (also an African-American woman.) 

Wolf also refers to other high-ranking Veolia executives as "a little boy scout" and a "leg shave'n fag." Regarding Dick Alexander, Veolia's senior vice president of business development, Wolf wrote: "Fuck Dick. It's easy to bid tight and blame the field. He's never run shit."

Wolf also took a swipe at the company's Phoenix partners when someone was complaining about his or her job. Wolf wrote: "Would you rather be here dealing with [Gregory] Torrez, CPLC [Chicanos Por La Causa] and Dick Alexander. I can throw in a 90 minute call with MJ [Veolia's CEO Mark Joseph] if that sweetens the trade."


According to court records, Veolia execs have been trying to track down the owner of the e-mail address from which those e-mails originated. But, as one might expect, the e-mail account comes back to an anonymous owner.

A federal judge granted the corporation the right to hire someone to peruse computers in search of evidence that might show that the e-mail address was set up on one of the computers at the Amalgamated Transit Union, the only union with which Veolia hasn't been able to reach a contract agreement.

Wolf was the company's regional vice president and was heading up the Phoenix contract.

And we emphasize "was."

Veolia sources tell New Times that Wolf was let go this week -- nearly seven months after the e-mails first started making their rounds. Check out the posting for his old job.


The e-mails also detail increased salaries for Veolia execs, even when corporate officials were preaching the importance of making sacrifices during difficult economic times to justify cutting workers' wages. Company officials slashed Veolia's non-union employees pay an average of 40 percent.

Veolia officials appear to have started hunting for the source of the e-mail leaks soon after their new Phoenix bus contract got under way July 1, 2010. 

The court granted permission on July 13 for Veolia to subpoena e-mail records from Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft "for the sole purpose of ascertaining the identities" of the defendants in Veolia's lawsuit. 

Veolia also had its eye on ATU president Bob Bean, one of the targets of the company's subpoenas, according to court records.

Veolia first tried to get at Bean's records on September 1, but courts granted Bean protection from Veolia's fishing expedition. But on October 14, the courts gave permission to Veolia to question Bean under oath and to hire a third party to gain access to computers used by Bean and the ATU.

The courts also allowed Veolia to access records at "hotels and other locations in Arizona and Atlanta that provide free internet access" to figure out where the anonymous e-mail account was established. The list also included Qwest accounts, hard-drives, and servers that Veolia suspects might contain clues about who sent out the e-mails. Terri McGraw, a laid-off Veolia employeef, also was targeted with subpoenas, according to court records.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo