A former chief counsel at a multinational corporation has learned the hard way that there’s no free lunch.
The Supreme Court of Kansas has disciplined Troy H. Ellis after a video camera caught him stealing food from the onsite cafeteria of Invista. The company, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, is the world’s largest producer of nylon and spandex, according to its Web site. It has locations in 24 countries.
The Kansas Supreme Court’s April 17 decision issued a public censure against Ellis, who was forced to resign after the theft at Invista’s Wichita, Kan., office came to light in 2007. The court found that he had violated the rules of professional responsibility by failing to “maintain his personal integrity” and by causing “actual injury” to the legal profession.
“I think I was just overworked,” said Ellis, in an audio recording of the disciplinary hearing before the Kansas court in March. “I made a mistake.” He told the court that he had planned to pay for the food when he returned from a business trip.
Ellis could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for Invista declined to comment on the court decision or Ellis’ employment with the company. On the audio recording from the hearing, Ellis said that he had received the biggest promotion of his career just prior to committing the theft. He had worked for the company for six years.
During a five-day period in September 2007, Ellis eight times loaded a tray with food and left the cafeteria without paying. He did not dispute the facts presented at the hearing. After cashiers at the cafeteria noticed his behavior, security employees installed a video camera that caught him in the act.
Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel for Koch, then confronted Ellis, who denied the theft until he viewed the video.
The same day, Ellis sent Holden an e-mail that said he was “embarrassed and disgusted” with himself. “I lied. I stole. I violated the Code of Conduct,” he wrote.
His e-mail continued: “I have had to tell my parents, who are here, my wife and my children what I did. I received no sympathy and the same question — why? I have no good answer.”
Holden directed Ellis to report his conduct to the state attorney disciplinary administrator.
Ellis argued at the hearing in March against a public censure. Although the court in In the Matter of Troy Ellis, No. 101,485, said it was “not impervious to the difficulties experienced by the respondent because of his conduct,” it found a public censure warranted.
“[W]e cannot ignore the fact that the respondent engaged in the criminal act of theft and upon discovery lied about his activities.”