Touching Story

Businessman Jim Blythe lends a hand in the wrong places, employees say

The Russian musician who played at The Old Warsaw restaurant impressed Jim Blythe. When the music stopped, the Russian and the rest of his quartet took a break, sitting at a table near Blythe's group.An immigrant, the Russian lamented that his job at a grocery store paid little and occupied much of his time. It kept him from his music, he said.

Jim Blythe heard him. It was the kind of hard-luck story that Blythe, the business half of Blythe-Nelson Management Services and Systems Engineering of Dallas, is known to love. He likes to help. Blythe offered the man a $2,000-a-month job as a consultant on the spot. The grateful musician accepted.

Several female Blythe-Nelson employees were seated at the table with Blythe that day and watched the heartwarming event unfold. It brought tears to their eyes.

Peter Kuper

People say that's just the kind of guy Jim Blythe is.

One of the women, an attractive 40-something who had recently been hired to a top post at Blythe's firm, was among those moved to tears, and she told him so. She describes what happened next in a sworn statement filed in court:

"Mr. Blythe then took his left hand and slid it between my legs, touching my vaginal area. I was shocked. I moved Mr. Blythe's hand back, looked directly into his eyes and asked what he was doing.

"Mr. Blythe laughed."

She fled the table to the bathroom and spent 10 to 15 minutes there before leaving the restaurant and work for the day.

That, some former employees claim, is also the kind of guy Jim Blythe is.

To the public, Blythe is known as a charismatic 50-year-old who has carved out a profitable niche in the last decade with the Dallas-based Blythe-Nelson telecommunications consulting firm. He's also widely known as a guy who likes to help those who need a break -- something described at length in a front-page article in The Wall Street Journal two years ago.

That's what makes allegations of extreme sexual harassment contained in a federal lawsuit against Blythe seem remarkable. Three former Blythe-Nelson employees -- Shirley Turner, Nicole Townsend, and Alyssa Wright -- are jointly suing their former boss for sexual harassment.

Court documents and a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determination state that Blythe publicly fondled and humiliated his female underlings. Blythe responds in court documents and in a written statement to the Dallas Observer that no witnesses corroborate any account of harassment and that he has more than a dozen witnesses who can discount the stories.

No matter who turns out to be telling the truth, the lawsuit brings trouble to what would seem to be an otherwise unblemished homegrown success story.

Blythe, a graduate of Texas Wesleyan University, and partner Mart Nelson left major corporate jobs and launched their corporation in 1980 from a small rented office with a leased word processor. Their idea was to assist large corporations such as J.C. Penney and Arthur Andersen with the management and application of new technologies. Blythe-Nelson today employs about 50 and recently posted annual sales of between $15 million and $20 million, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Blythe is responsible for Blythe-Nelson's, "internal management, client development and client interaction" and has management skills that rank "second only to his people skills," according to company literature.

In the lobby of the St. Paul Place office building is a beneficiary of Blythe's people and financial skills. His name is Harry Jackson, also known as the shoeshine guy.

Though the affable 78-year-old has been shining shoes for the last seven years or so, his trade is singing the blues. His career was in its heyday in the 1960s, but his singing voice never left him. People say he still turns heads when he breaks into song. Jackson's singing career was mostly a memory by the time he crossed paths with Jim Blythe in 1997.

Blythe, a customer, invited his shoeshine man to the 1998 Blythe-Nelson Christmas party, and that's where their friendship began to blossom when Jackson spontaneously broke into song and was invited to join the evening's hired singer. After that, Blythe arranged a regular gig for Jackson at Beau Nash, a jazz club in the Hotel Crescent Court.

Asked about Blythe, Jackson takes off his white polyester foam "Cahokia Flour Co." baseball cap revealing thinned salt and pepper hair and says somewhat solemnly, "I never met so fine a person as Jim. He seems like a father to me."

The Beau Nash engagement isn't as regular as it was last year but Blythe still tells Jackson when he's got a gig for him. And the friendship between the two, fueled by Blythe's ready giving, continues. He recently offered Jackson the use of the luxury box at the ballpark.

Blythe does not contain his munificence to musicians and blue-collar workers. For the last three years, Blythe-Nelson has supported the annual Boys and Girls Clubs of Arlington golf tournament, described by its president as a "humongous" fund-raising event for the nonprofit organization.

Don Kromer, head of the Arlington club and its 23 sites, practically gushes when Blythe's name is mentioned. "There are others that have probably done as much or more, but he certainly is among the top five among the long and consistent supporters," Kromer says.

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