Tucson pizza man fired for dough balls and chalk penis

A Tucson pizza guy was fired after being accused of throwing dough balls at and drawing a chalk penis on the outside wall of Magpies Gourmet Pizza on Broadway.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

While the premise may be a tad humorous, Casey Lemme’s story is anything but.

Lemme is 30, just finished his bachelor’s in history at University of Arizona and is a well-liked fellow. He has three dogs, a sweet wife and has worked at Magpies for the past 10 years while he completed his degree.

But his denial meant nothing. Another worker, who was supervisor on the day of the chalk penis incident, was also slated to be fired over it. She was instead tipped off in advance and simply never came back to work.

Lemme had no clue when he arrived to work his 4 p.m. shift on Sept. 27 that he would be immediately called into the office and axed.

He said Magpies President Mike Acedo was at the Broadway location to do the honors.

“He told me somebody from the property management company called and saw me outside drawing penises on the wall,” Lemme said. “I was throwing dough balls, apparently, as well.”

Lemme asked Acedo to view the videotape from the outdoor security camera but said he refused.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Acedo did not wish to comment on the incident when I called him, but did say something to the effect of “We are happy with the outcome” which followed “company procedure.” He said there was no videotape.

He also mentioned the dough balls and chalk penis drawings were a recurring theme and the person responsible admitted to it, but would not say if that person were Lemme.

“Yes, I wrote the words ‘I like chalk,’ on the pavement,” Lemme said he told him, “but I assure you have not drawn a penis or thrown dough balls. That’s childish and I don’t really have the time. I have work to do.”

Lemme said chalk was always kept in the office and finding chalk drawings or writing was not uncommon, but he has never seen a chalk penis.

In a last bid to clear his name, Lemme went down to the corporate office after his firing, even though he didn’t think it would do much good.

“I told them, ‘If you don’t want me working there, fine, but I can’t have this on my record,’” he said.

No dice. Lemme will instead be haunted by the dough balls and chalk penis.

“He is wrongfully accused and now he faces problems when applying for a new job since his name has been tarnished with this filthy lie,” his wife Louise Nilsson wrote in an e-mail. She’s originally from Sweden and they are living off the savings from selling her house there until Casey finds a new job.

“Is there no rights for workers in this country? Why is it that businesses can do what they want to innocent workers and have their future ruined because they feel like it? I don’t understand how there is nothing that protects the worker from this kind of thing.”

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Good questions, Louise.

While researching dumb reasons people get fired, I found they run the gamut to “position eliminated” to “not a good fit.”

The former can hold true even if someone was hired to do the exact same or similar job and the company slaps on a different title. The latter can be a catchall for pretty much anything at all.

One woman was fired for refusing to sign a written reprimand for something she denied doing.

Sure, there’s unemployment, which pays a ridiculous fraction of our salary and sometimes gets denied. Who knows what the outcome would be over the dough balls and chalk incident.

All Lemme knows is it’s time to move forward. And be glad that Brooklyn Pizza Company finally beat out Magpies as Tucson Weekly’s Best of Tucson pick for 2009.



Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who has never been fired for graffiti although it did once really freak out one of her former bosses. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com. E-mail rynski@tucsoncitizen.com.


What do you think?

Have you or someone you know ever been unfairly fired? What happened?

What’s the dumbest reason you know of someone getting fired?

What would you do if you were Casey?

PLEASE NOTE: Casey’s last name is Lemme. It was originally posted incorrectly as Nilsson, which is his wife’s last name.


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at ryngargulinski.com.
This entry was posted in danger, gross stuff, life, Rynski Column, Stupidity and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Tucson pizza man fired for dough balls and chalk penis

  1. azmouse says:

    Guilty or not, it seems a little extreme. It’s just chalk after all, not spray paint, plus the fact that there is no real proof of who did it.

    A friend of mine recently got fired because he made to much money and the company couldn’t afford to keep him. I would’ve thought they’d try to negotiate something with him…see if he could take a pay cut for a while till things get better??

    • Rynski says:

      Hey AZMouse – you’re right on the chalk thing. Wonder why some Tucson folks (i.e. UA admin and now Magpies) are so freaked out about chalk?
      Not having solid proof doesn’t seem to matter in this one.
      Sorry to hear about your high-paid friend – and yes, it seems a better resolution could be made. It reminds me of going to interviews and them saying “you’re overqualified” for this job. Everyone’s looking for cheap help at even cheaper prices.

  2. radmax says:

    Mornin’ Rynski. Where the heck do you find this stuff? 🙂 This is surely one bizarre tale. I do know that you can fire someone for darn near anything. I do it all the time… 😉
    PS-Don’t believe I would like someone making my pizza with these, ummm, ‘qualifications’.

    • Rynski says:

      Mornin’ Radmax. i don’t find this stuff…it comes to me! haha. what’s the dumbest thing someone you know got fired for (or you fired someone for?)
      also yes, job security seems like a myth in some instances with folks being open to being fired for any reason – or non-reason – under the sun.
      i agree, having this on your record is not a good thing….

      • radmax says:

        You could take dumbest reason two ways, dumb reason for getting fired or dumbest action resulting in termination. Let’s begin. The ‘overqualified’ reason takes the cake for dumb dismissals. The most boneheaded move by an employee of mine, (had to reflect on this for a while, there have been many). There are two that come to mind:
        The first is one of our crews working down by the border shuttling illegals across, in a huge company truck with the rear door open(for humanitarian reasons I guess.) Lucrative, but not a lot of job security.
        The second is a guy who was working at DM. He somehow made his way over to the mothballed plane area and removed one of the sensitive pieces of equipment from the cockpit. I found this out when the FBI called regarding said former employee asking all kinds of background questions on this idiot. They caught this mental giant placing the ‘black box’ by the perimeter fence, presumably for later retrieval.
        The fool still comes by looking for his job back! (upon completion of his two year stretch in the federal pokey)

      • Rynski says:

        oh, man! don’t know which one i would rate dumber – freedom lover or black box boy. hahahhahaha. both stories are genuinely hilarious! hey – are you going to hire back black box boy? maybe he learned his lesson (hahahhaa).

      • radmax says:

        Nope. A two year training session in federal gladiator school does not increase your chances for gainful employment. I have some guys workin’ for me with checkered pasts, but nobody with this kind of lunatic audacity on their resume.

  3. Jennatoolz says:

    Yeah, whats with all the chalk hate in Tucson lately!? Nilsson — I, too, like chalk!

    I haven’t been fired (so far) from any job, although there have been a couple close calls I was able to talk my way out of. Not that I’m a bad employee or anything, it was mostly because the workload I was given along with the expectations was impossible for just one person to do. They wanted quantity over quality…and I strive to do quality work!

    There has also been some things I’ve done (out of desperate measures, which isn’t really an excuse) that I could’ve gotten fired for if the boss at the time found out. The guilt alone was enough to make me realize how stupid of a mistake it was, especially if I would have gotten caught.

    • Rynski says:

      whew, jennatoolz, glad they never found out you stole that stapler (haha). i agree the quantity over quality thing is tough. i, too, have had massive workloads in the past that were way too much for a single person. i recall even asking my boss at the time if he wanted the work done fast or he wanted it done well.
      he said: “both.”
      sometimes you just can’t win!

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Hahaha sadly, it wasn’t a stapler that I stole. It was something else much more valuable that I “borrowed” without anyone’s knowledge…and I did return this particular thing that I borrowed. If I got caught borrowing it without approval, I would have lost my job for sure. I realized that my job was more important to keep and it wouldn’t have been worth it if I got caught.

        Ohhh the lessons I have learned these past 4 years that I’ve lived on my own in Tucson…lol.

      • Rynski says:

        i hear ya on lessons – but the ones that hurt the most are also the ones we REMEMBER not to repeat.

      • Jennatoolz says:

        So true, Ryn…so true!

  4. tiponeill says:

    “Is there no rights for workers in this country?” – No, and ironically we are proud of that.
    “Sure, there’s unemployment,” – probably not. Not sure about AZ law but in most states you cannot collect unemployment if your are fired “for cause”.
    “Yes – but I deserved it.”- Not sure how to answer your poll.
    I’ve been fired for being gay – does that qualify as “deserved it” ?
    Anyway, I’ll have to find another place besides Magpies.

    • azmouse says:

      You were fired for being gay? That is insane! 
      Sorry tiponeill, that has to be one of the worst reasons I’ve heard of.

      On the southeast side…New York Pizza is really good.  🙂

    • radmax says:

      Tip, did they actually come out and say that? My sympathies bud, no one should be terminated for anything other than poor job performance, or perhaps illegal activities, such as my experiences… 🙂

    • Rynski says:

      hey tiponeill –
      no, being gay does not qualify for “deserving” being fired – geesh! did they cloak it with some random reason? you’re right – there is no good poll response for that situation.  prob. the first response would be best, if any, since you did not do anything wrong.
      on unemployment issue, i’ve heard of some folks still fighting the “for causes” – but you’re right, that was in new york.
      finally – the lack of rights for workers in this county – wholly scary. and yes, even scarier that the fact is something of which to be proud.

      • tiponeill says:

        It was long ago – although I understand in this season’s Mad Men a similar situation is portrayed and the gay art director is fired by the hero.
        State law varies but many states, including AZ, have no protection whatsoever and anyone can be fired for any reason – such as being Jewish or Mormon. Because discrimination is dicussed so much, most people are under the erroneous impression that discrimination is illegal.
        Most companies have non-discrimination policies, but these are voluntary policy – not law.

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Wow, I always thought that discrimination was illegal…never knew it was a voluntary thing. Interesting fact for sure, and a good-to-know one too.

        I’ve grown up being super open-minded about everything, from homosexuality to religion and everthing outside and in between. So, to me, someone being gay isn’t a huge deal, and in fact, it’s not even a “deal” at all. I wish everyone had the same open-mindedness that I have. But alas, that would be too easy. Someone’s always gotta complain about something…

  5. ldonyo says:

    He could file for unemployment and then appeal the denial he would probably get because of Magpie’s. Or he could sue Magpie’s for defamation and slander. Neither path would be easy, but would probably be the only way to get to the truth.

  6. Ana says:

    I was fired as a teen from the Greyhound call center, post-training, pre-“employment”, because I had marijuana in my urine.  I passed all of their training tests with flying colors which included such things as remembering the abbreviations of all 50 states.  There were some major idiots there who couldn’t even read the scripts.  But they got the job.

    • tiponeill says:

      Amazing isn’t it. I know of one company that will fire you if they discover you have smoked a tobacco cigarette (in your own house at night).
      I am hoping that we might be reaching critical mass now that some companies are considering firing you if you are overweight.

    • Rynski says:

      is that way those dang bus trips take so long? workers are confused to what state they are supposed to go to?

    • Jennatoolz says:

      Ahh, when I applied for a job at Walmart way back when, they had me take a training test, and a few of the questions were about marijuana and rate how I felt about it –such as, if an employee showed up to work high, but was able to work effectively, how would I feel? I answered something to the effect of allowing that employee to continue working as long as they were doing their jobs. The interviewer was kind of concerned by my answer…and pointed out that while the person was doing their job efficiently, marijuana is still an illegal substance and they (as a company) did not condone such behavior, even if that employee was partaking in such activites on their own time.

      So, thats most likely what their reasoning was in your case, Ana. Even though you were able to do what was asked of you (and better than others that were hired), you still had MJ in your system, which is still illegal, and they probably just didn’t want that liability on their hands.

      If I owned a business, employees can do whatever they want on their personal time — it’s their fault if they’re doing something illegal and get caught by the law — but if those activities started to affect their work performance negatively, then they’d simply get canned. 🙂

      • Ana says:

        I totally get that, it’s just retarded.  And speaking of Walmart, I went there the other day & tried to get some help from a retail clerk and she spoke no English.  Honestly, I’m not worried about her legal status, but wow, that’s where our hiring standards have gone?  Thank god I took Spanish in college, can’t get a job, but I can shop!

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Hahaha…I worked there for 1 1/2 years and I’ll tell you that there are some VERY interesting people that they hire, and it just makes you think “WTF where they thinking when they decided to hire that person?!” The particular one that I worked at, many of the employees seemed to look like ogres or trolls that should be living under a bridge (missing and/or crazy teeth, bulbous noses complete with warts). When I was hired, it kinda made me take a second look at myself, I have one crazy tooth (but I have all of them!) but definitely no warty face. Maybe it was my crazy tooth that got me the job! 😛

  7. Robert Rowley, Tucson, Arizona says:

    After reading this story I think that I’ll move my business from Magpies to Brooklyn and Marios. No more Magpies in my home.

  8. mорское says:

    if the accusation from the employer is false, he can sue if they state this to anyone.

    the idea of the “right to work state” allows employers to do anything for any reason is not true.

    my cousin sued a previous employer 3 years ago and won a very nice settlement as well as a permanent injunction against the company.

    odds are that there is more to this than meets the gherkin.

  9. Oldwest2 says:

    This just seems to bizarre to be true, it almost sounds as if the company was looking for a reason to can this person. It surely is not right no matter what. Throwing pizza balls at a penis chalk drawing !!! ha ha does no one have a sense of humor any more. Maybe it was too small!!! hahahaha.
    What ya think Rynski??

  10. Ado says:

    I feel sympathy for this guy.  Perhaps, if he wishes to clear his name he should go consult an attorney and maybe sue(I agree with mopckoe).  I’m not much of a pizza fan either,  so avoiding Magpies is no problem for me. (I prefer Sanchez Burrito Company when I eat out)

  11. Kathleen says:

    Well, chalk or not.  the company might have worried that the penises would be confused by consumers as some new Magpie brand logo or something.  or that people might think its a preview of a new penispizza campaign.  I mean, there could be worse things to eat….. like…. pineapple on pizza???  i mean really… yah gotta be sicko to eat that.

  12. Alison says:

    I am the other worker who was fired for this incident. The supposed penis on the wall was outside in our break/smoking area where there are no customers. I never saw the penis and the dough balls I was fired for. The evidence against me was that a ticket from the night I was supervising was found by the dough ball. I was a loyal employee for two years and had never made any trouble. I was warned by my immediate boss that if I showed up for my next shift, Mike Acedo (whom I have never met) was going to scream at me and fire me in front of all the employees who were working that day. I got the impression he wanted to make some sort of example out of me. I informed my boss that I had no idea what he was even talking about but he told me that it wouldn’t matter. I think it is disgusting to fire two loyal employees for things they weren’t even aware of with no evidence. Magpies deserves no business.

  13. leftfield says:

    There are many things in life that I do not understand.  One of these things is why people think Magpie’s pizza is good; it’s not.  Putting artichokes on a lousy pizza doesn’t make a lousy pizza good.

    Another thing that confuses me is why people persist in thinking that there is some fundamental element of fairness that is or should be at play in social relations under capitalism; there is not.  What is fundamental under the current status quo is that the worker is simply a instrument, a means, a tool; readily replaced by the waiting pool of workers kept hungry for employment. 

    I agree that the underlying nature of the worker/employer relation is more evident and more harsh in what is euphemistically called a “right to work” state, but the essential nature of the social relations under capitalism is the same whether it be the worker fired making your cheap clothing in Vietnam for having to urinate more than is allowed, or the worker fired in Tucson for expressing their profound alientation from their labors through art.  

    Why do we persist in thinking that because I once had a good boss that treated me like a human being, the underpinnings of our social relations are fundamentally fair to the person who will just apply themselves and play according to the rules of the game?  

  14. Ado says:

    Ya’ got it right on the artichokes Lefty(One out of twenty ain’t too bad for an avowed commie). 

    The thing I fail to understand is how it would be any different under communism.  Whether it’s a gulag leader playing favorites, or a straw boss in a capitalistic free enterprise system doin’ it, the result is the same, a couple people outta’ work.  Under our legal system, there is recourse through the court system.  How would the aggrieved workers seek redress under your system, comrade?  Without being executed by the state, that is.

    • leftfield says:

      Best we stick to the small picture here, Ado.  The thrust of my argument is that there is no inherent principle of fairness in play under the current economic system.  Any “fairness” ethic that you perceive is illusory or unique to an individual and also very disposable at will.  There’s no argument on my part here that socialism comes with a fool-proof guarantee against the screwing of the less powerful.  I would say only that it is in the realm of possibility with socialism, but never with capitalism.

      • radmax says:

        I believe you are lookin’ at the ‘big picture’ Lefty, but anyway. You always look at doctrine as opposed to the actual realities of life under the socialist/communistic regimes. Would that it were possible to combine the personal incentive under capitalism to better one’s station in life through hard work, with the moral equity and idealistic platitudes espoused by Marx and Lenin, you might be on to something. Until then, my friend, we will have to make the most of an unjust, imperfect world, with an even more imperfect populace. I like to dream too.

      • leftfield says:

        Yes, it’s true that I do always tend to see issues through the lens of anti-capitalism.  It’s also true that others, including yourself, tend to see issues through the lens of “no other alternative is possible”. 

        I not only like to dream, I must know that a better world is possible.

  15. radmax says:

    Ps-Magpies?!!!…Rocco’s rocks. No comparison.

  16. Sharlene says:

    Wow. I’ve been a loyal customer of Magpie’s for years, but no more. That is just ridiculous. And why would this Mike guy come in and lay down the hammer? That’s the manager’s job. He didn’t trust the manager to investigate and make a decision?
    I’d much rather support Brooklyn’s. You don’t see as much staff turnover there, it’s a green company, and just won Best of Tucson. Boo to you Magpie’s for your unfair/illegal/discriminatory labor practices. Firing someone without evidence? You just lost my business… and I’ll be sure to forward this to all my colleagues.

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