You had to get the print edition of today's Strib to see Par Ridder caught by photographer Glenn Stubbe in a Ramsey County District Court lobby.
My grab of Ritter's thousand-mile stare, as he stands alone but surrounded by Avista executives, only begins to do it justice.
Today, MPR reported Ritter:
acknowledged taking 18 to 20 spreadsheets containing sensitive data on advertising, finances and personnel when he was hired in March. But he said he intended to use them only to re-create the forms with Star Tribune data.
But he became frustrated with "how long it was taking Star Tribune staff to recreate them and load them with the paper's data," MPR reported, so he gave the Pioneer Press spreadsheets — numbers and all — to at least two other Star Tribune officials.
Let's get this straight. He took his former employer's proprietary data, didn't return it when asked, and later justifies his action as simply wanting to duplicate the reporting format. Since he only took the files for that reason, he must've had a premonition that it would take the Strib staff a long time to do it. But then why be frustrated about something he'd expected?
As a businessman, I was a pretty lenient sort, trusting more to karma than the courts to mete out cosmic justice. That approach worked for me, but I'd seen respected colleagues burned by partners and employees who operated on an ethical plane that ate trust for breakfast and then crapped it in the foyer. [The ***** indicates I'm talking about my experience, not Ritter here, but take the contiguity as you will.]
So when we hired a senior exec with a non-compete agreement, as the potentially sued party, I took pains to find out what it said. Funny, though. The previous employer said, get it from the guy, and the guy said he didn't have a copy.
I tried a different tack with the ex-employer. I want to respect the terms, I said, but if I don't know what's in it, I might inadvertently violate it. Just so we understand each other, why don't you send me a copy? Your new guy knows what's in it, I was told.
This should've been my cue to run in the opposite direction, but sometimes I get the crazy notion that being alert, honest and fair is all it takes to remain in fate's good graces.
I never did see the noncompete, but we signed the guy — with our own non-compete, of course — and we steered clear of trouble on that score. But things got interesting in a different way.
The guy turned out to be more show than go, and he never brought in a drop of new business. Eventually, he started to annoy an important client that had originally okayed hiring him. It was time to cut him loose.
One of the assets he was supposed to turn in upon termination was a company laptop. Well, he was in another city and he asked for a couple weeks grace period. We gave it to him.
When we got the computer back and went to clean up the hard drive, we found some interesting things. Things he'd probably meant to clear from the computer during those two weeks, but being a superficial type, hadn't thoroughly erased.
He'd developed some new business, all right, but he was doing it on the side. And that wasn't the only thing he was doing on the side.
Contracts are nice, but my advice? Look at the hard drive if you really want to know a man.