Elena Guajardo didn’t kill George Dickerson
One Friday afternoon about six years ago, my Aunt Debra was fired from her job at a nursing home. That evening, she went into her bedroom, lay in her bed, opened the Bible to the 23rd Psalm, and shot herself in the side with a 9mm. We found her body two weeks later.
Most San Antonians who read or watch the news know that earlier this month George Dickerson shot himself two days after the H.B. Zachry corporation fired him for violating the company e-mail policy. Using the Zachry server, he sent an inflammatory e-mail with racist and classist overtones about trouble at a local nightclub to District 7 Councilwoman Elena Guajardo. She in turn called Zachry to complain that the missive had been sent from the company server.
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Since then, Guajardo has been the scapegoat for Dickerson’s death. Some constituents have called for her to resign, contending she should have never called Zachry about the e-mail and questioning whether its contents were racist. It’s unlikely that Dickerson intended for his e-mail to be interpreted as a racial diatribe, but in it he asked the Councilwoman to relocate the club, which caters to Hispanics, to the “low class side of town.” And while her critics have carefully prefaced their comments with “she didn’t pull the trigger,” the implication is that Guajardo killed Dickerson by proxy. This is outrageous and unfair.
A friend of Dickerson’s told Council last week that Guajardo’s call to Zachry will have a “chilling effect” on people who want to write to their elected officials. On the contrary, citizens should feel free to petition their Council representative, just not from corporate servers. Sending a message from a company server is akin to writing a note on company letterhead, putting it in a company envelope, and mailing it. Many businesses have policies prohibiting the use of company servers for personal correspondence, and had Dickerson sent his complaint using his personal e-mail account, the issue would have been between him and his elected representative. Zachry would have never entered the equation and Dickerson would likely have his job and be alive today.
Whether Dickerson, a 27-year employee, should have been fired for this transgression is another matter. It seems extreme, and perhaps a knee-jerk reaction from Zachry, which dealt with a similar public-relations disaster last year. Yet the people attacking Guajardo haven’t publicly demanded an explanation from Zachry about the apparent double standard applied to Dickerson and Ken Wolf, who violated the same policy last June. In a corporate abracadabra, Wolf “resigned,” but remained on the Zachry payroll as a consultant.
Guajardo is an easy target: a face on which the aggrieved can displace their sadness, consternation, and outrage. Zachry is a faceless corporation housed on the upper floors of tall buildings and a sprawling complex behind a fence. Guajardo is a public servant who has to field questions and epithets from whomever launches them her way; Zachry is a privately held corporation that can close ranks and answer to no one.
Dickerson’s family and friends are grieving, and if they’re like most people whom suicide victims leave behind, they feel angry, heartbroken, and confused about their loved one’s actions. Suicide notes often only hint at their desperation — my aunt’s rambling letter asked us to “pray me out of wherever I am” — and baffled survivors are left to interpret their meaning. Unfortunately, Guajardo is being used to fill in the blanks. If Dickerson’s family and friends are looking for answers, don’t look to Guajardo. She doesn’t have them. •
By Lisa Sorg