When the phones in the Texas Attorney General's Office's Child Support Division wouldn't stop ringing, Delene Richardson did what she says she was told to do: pretend to be an answering machine. For the better part of four months, the Mesquite resident answered the phone in a robotic monotone and told callers looking for their child support checks, "All circuits are busy. Please try your call again later."
Richardson started doing this in January 2008 to clear the backed-up queue. She was caught four months later by another employee who called the customer inquiry line.
"Is Delene playing like she is a recorder?" the employee asked management. To which the reply was, "Yep."
And on June 16, 2008, Richardson was fired. But Richardson isn't sulking away quietly. She wants her job back -- because, she insists, she was just following orders.
Indeed, other employees support her story, according to various letters given to Unfair Park. Reads one such missive: "On January 17, 2008 Stephanie Martinez, office supervisor, came into my office and said that Cherrie Peavy-Green, office manager, wanted the CIR's [Customer Inquiry Representative], when phone calls get backed up to 'Answer the phone, sound like a recording, and say all lines are busy please call back in 30 minutes (pick a time).'"
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The AG's office is refusing to consider her appeal. Richardson says that while other employees refused to follow the orders, she chose to abide because "I felt that my job was in jeopardy if I did not follow instructions."