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Episode 23 BOFH 2002: Episode 23

So The PFY and I are laxing out in the office when a Bloke from HR wanders in with The Boss, looking rather nervous.

"Ah... Could you two, uh, spare some time?" The Boss asks. "There's a a disciplinary meeting that we'd like you to come to..."

"Whatever it is, we didn't do it!" The PFY pre-empts, "We've been playing games and reading people's email ALL morning - it's all on camera, and you can check!"

"Wa? No, no, it's not about that... er - it's just that the Disciplinary Committee from Head Office is coming in and is meeting to look over some complaints, and as the problems are in your area of expertise and experience we thought that we might be able to make use of your.. particular talents."

Talk about laying it on thick...

"Oh!" I cry, "Only too happy to help! What would you like us to do, some interviewing in the basement with the rubber hose, chicken lard and the hungry doberman or just a bit of general 'putting the slipper in' to extract a confession - that sort of thing?"

"Wha?!" The HR Bloke gabbles.

"Ah no," The Boss chirps. "We're thinking more of opinions on the technical aspects of some complaints that have been escalated through the Company. In one case a particularly sensitive enquiry that we need treated with the utmost discretion…"

"Discretion is my middle name!" The PFY cries.

"Ah, I think you mean cretin" I correct.

"Same thing," The PFY responds.

"Well ANYWAY," I continue. "You can be assured that we will treat this with the sensitivity that this deserves."

With that we're on our way to the meeting - so quick in fact that I barely have time to zero the digital recorder in my PDA before joining the witch hunt.

. . .

We get to the meeting room, and it's a bunch of stuffed-shirt-suit-and-tie-combos, some of whom are obviously board members, whilst others have the distinct greasy feel of lawyer types.

I smell intrigue....

"OK, so we're just going to run over the basics of one of the alleged incidents that are claimed to have occurred in the past week," The Head Shark starts. "On or around the early morning of Wednesday of last week, an alleged email message purporting to be from someone in very senior management was delivered to a member of his junior staff, apparently suggesting an illicit sexual encounter. This alleged message is then said to have been rebuffed, causing a second alleged message strongly restating the first. This second message…"

"ALLEGED message," The PFY adds helpfully.

"Ah yes, ALLEGED message was apparently ignored, causing a third ALLEGED message one hour later, again strongly restating the first two. A complaint was laid with Head Office. This activity is alleged to have continued for the rest of the day, causing a further complaint. The purpose of this meeting is to establish whether the mail was in fact sent, where it was sent from, by whom, and whether the content of the message is grounds for a legitimate complaint?"

"Shouldn't someone just ask the alleged sender?"

"We spoke to the alleged sender's counsel," The Head Shark responds, indicating a quiet suited shark in the corner "stating that due to a mixup in his medication his recollection of events is somewhat less than full."

"Medication?" The PFY asks.

"Yes. A herbal drink, recommended by an accredited naturopath," The Quiet Shark adds.

"A fermented herbal drink?"

"It may have been."

"So he was pissed on the job!" The PFY blurts, coming to the point.

"His performance was somewhat impaired by the side effects of his medication, but that's no reason to suggest that he was responsible for the actions being complained about - someone may have taken advantage of his condition to..."

"OK," I interject "Mind if I leap in here? First off, what was the email address that the messages were sent to?"

"Alleged messages," The PFY again adds.

"Indeed…"

I get the info, and quicker than you can say "fire up 80211b on the old personnel disorganiser and cruise the sendmail logs" I've fired up 80211b on the old personnel disorganiser and cruised the sendmail logs.

"OK, so the mail was sent from the CEO's machine."

"Are you sure?" Head Shark asks.

"Quite."

"And did he send it?"

"If he didn't, someone who knew his password did, as several weeks ago he insisted we install an 'authenticated SSL encrypted MTA, whatever the hell that is' because he'd read on an inflight magazine somewhere that that was important..."

"Doh-k. So you're implying that as first glance it looks fairly incriminating then?"

"Ahhh, no more incriminating than if he'd been seen at the water cooler with a fistful of condoms and a 50 blister-pack of Rohypnol..."

"Heart Medication!" The Quiet Shark interjects quickly. "Taken under the clinical supervision of his doctor!"

This just gets better and better...

"OK, so bottom line, let me get this clear - he rocked into work in Oliver Reed mode, got over-verbal in email, then went so far off the deep end that he needed decompression the next morning, and you want to cover it up."

"I don't think that you can rea..."

"In a nutshell, yes" The Head Shark adds.

"So what you're actually talking about is an out-of-court settlement, in the four-figure region for three people."

"Three?"

"Yes. Well, the complainant - for stress, etc; then myself and my assistant!"

"Why should be pay you??"

"It seems obvious - to massage an element of doubt into the logfiles so they can't be ."

"So you're saying you could obscure the true source of the email?"

"For an extra hundred, you can nominate who you'd have liked it to come from..."

Half an hour later a deal is struck, as are three cheques. Not a bad consultancy fee, all things concerned. Course, the CEO's secretary's going to get her 50% cut from our share for having the idea in the first place and spiking the CEO's morning spirulina, but all in all, not a bad haul.

Today, the CEO. Tomorrow, The Board! ®

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