Losing your temper at work can happen. But if you spew epithets and your tantrum is caught on video, you should probably expect there to be consequences. So perhaps it's not surprising that after an attorney's obscene tirade was captured on video, according to New York's Daily News, his client -- a school board -- would remove him as counsel and his firm would resign from the account.
Christopher Kirby, of Valley Stream, N.Y.-based firm Minerva & D'Agostino, told a parent to "shut up" during what became a contentious meeting of the East Ramapo Central School District in Rockland County, N.Y., which is about 15 miles from Manhattan. Afterward, he indulged in the not-safe-for-work meltdown, which included calling a parent a "fat c---." It also was captured on video. The board finally took action nearly a week later, but that was only after the four-minute video was posted online Wednesday.
It all began during a July 2 school board meeting that was videotaped and posted to YouTube. According to that video, Peggy Hatton, the mother of a special-education student in the high school, addressed what she deemed poor communication on the part of the district. Hatton then complained that Kirby was "smirking" at her. He left and then returned, and Hatton complained that Kirby was again smirking, at which point Kirby said, "Oh, would you please shut up, for Christ's sake."
In the YouTube video, no one on the board appeared to take any action. Another parent insisted that Kirby leave. The lawyer said, "I'll smirk if I want to. I'll laugh if I want to." As Hatton tried to address the board on her original point, he added, "I'm still smirking." She burst into tears while the board remained silent.
The interaction continued and escalated outside, in the parking lot, and was captured on video. Kirby can be seen cursing at a number of parents and appeared to try to goad one of the fathers into a fistfight. Then he called Hatton fat and hurled at her the offensive term for female genitalia.
Controversy has dogged Minerva & D'Agostino. In April, a student claimed that Albert D'Agostino, one of the firm's major partners, "verbally abused" a student at a March 5 school rally. Three years ago, D'Agostino reportedly had a verbal fight with a graduate of the school system during a school board meeting. But those interactions weren't captured on video.
Less than a week after the July 2 incident, and after 200 parents held an outside demonstration, the East Ramapo Central School District board said that Kirby would no longer do work for it. D'Agostino and his associates billed $250 an hour and $125 an hour for travel, according to USA Today.
Was Kirby fired from the firm? Kirby is not listed now on the firm's roster of attorneys on its site. But no one from Minerva & D'Agostino responded to an AOL Jobs interview request.
The Daily News reported that during a July 8 meeting the board said that it would replace Minerva & D'Agostino as its law firm:
"We disassociate ourselves with his actions and his words," board President Yehuda Weissmandl said at Monday night's meeting, to triumphant applause from parents and students.
Some parents who attended the meeting disputed that report, however. "What it sounded like to me [during the July 8 meeting] was that the firm itself said that it no longer had the wherewithal to serve the board without Mr. Kirby, so they in effect are canceling their work for the board," said parent Chana Wiesenthal Elias to AOL Jobs. "There was no timeline and no reaching out to the parents to, say, help in the process of finding new counsel ... and no public apology."
According to reporting by the Rockland County Times, there are concerns that a new firm, to be recommended by Minerva & D'Agostino, could have some kind of relationship with the old one. The East Ramapo Central School District supervisor also did not respond to an AOL Jobs interview request.
If Kirby was fired, it would be far from the first time that it came after being caught on video doing something others found offensive. In March, James Olmstead, an adjunct professor at the University of Oregon School of Law was fired after his bizarre rant at a student protest was captured on video and posted to the Web. When video cameras are only a cell phone away, chances are good that the Internet could wind up seeing everything. And sometimes, that can be a good thing.