One day, I received a call from the DuPont Chief Financial Officer’s executive assistant. She told me the CFO wanted to see me right away. As you can imagine, I was quite taken aback. Though I reported directly to a Vice President of a business unit, as an employee with finance function responsibilities I also reported administratively to the CFO. I saw the CFO rarely; in meetings perhaps once every several months or so. For one thing he was located in downtown Wilmington; my office was twenty minutes away in an office complex in suburban Wilmington.
What the hell could I have done? It was nowhere near time for me to be reassigned, and I could not think of anything that I was involved in that could even be misconstrued as illegal or inappropriate. The video business? Yes we rented adult movies but so did the vast majority of other video stores. I pondered as to whether any controversies about the video business had been in the news lately. I know there was some discussion locally about holding video stores more accountable for renting violent games and movies to minors, but nothing like the national scandal of a few years prior regarding Traci Lords. (A top adult movie star who entered the business underaged by virtue of a counterfeit driver's license. Every video store in the country scrambled to remove and destroy her films as soon as Ms. Lords' subterfuge came to light. I remember when the story hit the newspapers my panicked call from my DuPont office to my brother Kenny who was managing the business to destroy any films we had of hers at the stores.)
So, I was perplexed going into his office for only the second time ever; I had been there before when promoted to my current position, Finance Manager of a business unit, which reports to the CFO on a dotted line basis.
“Come on in, Paul”, the CFO said, as he motioned me to sit on a couch away from his desk. That relaxed me a bit. If I were in trouble, I surmised, I would have sat across his desk from him.
“I am very sorry about Doretha’s medical situation. I read about it in the News Journal. How are your daughters doing?”
The CFO had not met Dorey. It was a little odd hearing him call her by her name; I guess given the circumstances Doretha sounds a lot better than “your ex-wife.”
I told him that Kina and Shornay were fine; that they were living with Cheryl—whom the CFO did know—and me for the time being.
“Tell Cheryl I said hello.”
He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope and handed it to me. “We received this today and I wanted to share it with you.”
The return address stated: United States Senate, The Honorable Joseph R. Biden. There were two Delaware icons in the early nineties: the DuPont company, and Joe Biden. Besides representing Delaware effectively, Senator Biden was just a few years removed from a presidential campaign where he had been the frontrunner for a while and then ultimately saw his campaign derailed by a plagiarism scandal. He was now back firmly entrenched as one of the most powerful members of the Senate, and was identified more with his state than any other senator not only because of his aggressive advocacy on behalf of Delaware but also because he did not live in Washington; he was well-known for commuting to DC via Amtrak every day from his home in Wilmington.
I read the letter; it consisted of two short paragraphs... It was signed Joseph R. Biden, United States Senator.
The CFO could see from the expression on my face that I was stunned by what I had read. He told me that there was nothing for me to do and that the matter was being taken care of by DuPont. He just wanted me to be aware. As I headed back to my office, I wondered had there been a concerted effort to get the powerful Senator involved, perhaps by local politicians and clergy, or did he simply read about Dorey in the newspaper or see the feature on ABC Action News or the Sally Jesse Raphael Show.
...It was not the last time I would, “cross paths” with Senator Biden...
Dr. Paul Thornton is currently a university administrator. In the past he has been a professor, small business owner, and corporate executive.