Manager in Iraq Confiscates Personal Property

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about document taken:

I have a package of documents that will provide a historical record of what happened in Iraq, and what my former employer did and did not do. Briefly, the timeline is as follows:

1. I departed Iraq on 3 October 2012 on R&R, expecting to return to Iraq on 24 October. I left a suitcase in my locked room, and the job box with my personal tools arrived in Iraq and was inventoried by Dowley personnel on 4 October.

2. Between 3 October and 20 October, the International Operations Manager, Mr. Thomas Moriarty, obtained access to my locked quarters and confiscated the property I left in the room and other items that belonged to the company that I had left out of my suitcase. The job box with my personal tools and other items remains in the secure warehouse on site in Iraq.

3. On 18 October, I was terminated by my employer, stating that the “customer” had requested that I not return to Iraq, and that as they did not have any other overseas contracts, they were terminating me.

4. I was never notified that I would not be returning to Iraq until 18 October, and also, the company never notified me they were taking action to either gain access to my room nor that they had confiscated my property in Iraq. Nonetheless, as I did not trust the on-site personnel, I appointed an individual in writing to recover and ship my suitcase and personal job box and tools, and to get a signature for all company property to send to me.

5. After I was terminated, I e-mailed my agent and requested that he provide the memo to Mr. Moriarty, and asked him to recover my property, ship it to me, and also, return all company property to Mr. Moriarty, and obtain a signature.

6. On 20 October 2012, I was informed by e-mail by my agent that “the Dowley guys had gotten into my room and had taken my stuff.”

7. I asked the management of Pernix Corporation for assistance in recovering my suitcase. Mr. Kevin Skyrmes, Pernix Group, tasked the acting Project Manager on site to assist my representative in getting Mr. Moriarty to release my proprty. Mr. Moriarty released the suitcase but told my agent that the company would “pay me” for the job box and its contents and refused to release the job box and tools.

8. Shortly afterwards, I received a “Cease and Desist Letter” from Dowley Security Systems (my former employer) accusing me of contacting the Department of State and claiming to be an unfairly terminated employee, but did not address my property that was in their possession. I believe this letter was based partly on their not wanting me to contact the Regional Security Office at the Embassy in Baghdad and complaining about their confiscating my property.

9. My response was that I had not done this or any of the other actions they accused me of doing, but that I had contacted the Pernix Group for assistance after waiting nearly three weeks and asked them why they had not returned my property.10. They received this reply letter on November 2, 2012, and they have yet to contact me about the job box and personal tools in their possession.What can I do about this?

Signed, Frustrated

Dear Frustrated:

It may be that the only way you are going to get your tools back will be to use an attorney, to avoid a lawsuit against you (based on the Cease and Desist Order). He or she would know how best to approach it to work around such an order. However, the key to everything is in relationships. If you can find just one person with authority who cares enough about you or about the situation to intervene on your behalf, you can be successful. It does seem that the Mr. Skyrmes is a potential resource for you and Mr. Moriarty, on his own or acting for someone else, is the one who is causing you the most problems.If there is someone at the company you worked for, other than Mr. Moriarty who you could write to, try that person–especially if you never had a contentious relationship with him and he could understand why it is so important for you to get your tools back. I think you should use a friendly and requesting tone rather than a legal sounding tone. When people get a letter that is very structured and legal sounding, they assume it was composed by a lawyer, which worries them. Or, they think the person writing it is a bit odd and that worries them too.

In a former job of mine, when we received letters from non-attorneys written with “legalese” we assumed they were from people who were going to be difficult to deal with, because that seemed to always be the case! So, try just a person-to-person letter, letting them know that if you can just get your tools, they’ll never hear from you again.You may find that something has happened to the tools (stolen, given away, being used by someone else, etc.) and you will be offered money for them.

To save the hassle of continued back and forth, you may need to accept replacement. If you will do that, consider putting an estimate for replacement cost in your letter, being reasonable about it, not exorbitant.You mentioned having an agent locally. I presume that is a friend of yours who is still employed by the company. Let that person know that you are not threatening anyone, you just want your tools and belongings. (You don’t want him to be approaching this in a way that creates bad feelings, inadvertently.)

I don’t know the value of your tools or how much more you are willing to invest to get them back. But, at some point you will either have to give up or get an attorney and hope a genuinely legal letter will have an effect. The company obviously doesn’t want their higher level contractor to think they have problems. Even then, I don’t know what an attorney would have the ability to threaten.

Small claims court is about the only thing that seems to fit unless the tools were extremely valuable. I wish there was something definite I could advice you about, but there isn’t. We’re very successful at helping people with complex workplace communication issues, but this has gone beyond that already it seems. Best wishes to you with your efforts.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.