The article printed below was supplied to the Company Secretary & General Counsel Corporate of Royal Dutch Shell Plc., Mr Michiel Brandjes, on Monday 15 Sept 2014. I asked Mr Brandjes to also bring the article to the attention of Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden and the Shell-Motiva Security Supervisor named in the working headline. The parties were given the opportunity to take issue with the stated facts, comment and/or take legal action to prevent publication. No response has been received. It follows that Shell has also not disputed the authenticity of quoted internal email correspondence. Readers are free to draw their own conclusions.
WORKING HEADLINE: SHOVE-OFF BY JO KERKHOFF – VICTIMIZATION OF EMPLOYEES RAMPANT AT SHELL-MOTIVA NORCO SITE
This is the true story of a former U.S. Secret Service Agent and former Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security. He was hired by a contractor firm in June of this year to become Project Manager with responsibility for the security force at the Shell-Motiva Norco site in Louisiana. The site is spread over 700 acres, inclusive of a major refinery.
I have confirmed the remarkable background of this individual, who has worked in some of the most stressful operational settings. This includes his assignment as the Incident Commander for the rescue, relief, recovery and federal law enforcement activities in preparation for and in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, where he commanded vast personnel resources as well as small boats, aircraft and vehicles, for which he was granted seven high-level awards and commendations.
He has never encountered, in a career at the highest levels of the federal government, such a thoroughly unprofessional, hostile working environment, as he found at the Shell-Motiva Norco site.
The gentleman in question felt a sense of foreboding when he learnt that his immediate predecessor, Mr Kenneth Gustavis, who was employed by the same contractor, was being unceremoniously removed from the position in unusual circumstances. News that Mr Gustavis intended to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the contractor company and Shell-Motiva heightened his unease.
The likely underlying reason for the abrupt departure of Mr Gustavis (escorted off the property) soon became apparent. The alleged problem Mr Gastavis and his successor encountered can be described in two words: Jo Kerkhoff, a Security Supervisory working for Shell-Motiva.
The former Secret Service Agent alleges that her activities undermined the role of Project Manager; that she was unprofessional, power hungry, rude and consistently attempted to subordinate him, on one occasion repeatedly demanding that he should sit down (while she gave him a personal lecture).
Her emails to him were devoid of any attempt at normal politeness in communications between colleagues. The content of one email was: “You should come and see me.” Nothing else. No opening greeting. No sign off. No pretence of civility.
It soon became apparent that he was not alone in his assessment of Jo Kerkhoff. He received extremely negative feedback about her from many Shell-Motiva employees and contractor workers at the NORCO site. Her toxic reputation was widely known. Complaints were not lodged because of a fear of reprisal by her.
Since we only have the account of the former federal law enforcement officer about his dealings with her (other than internal emails I have seen, which confirm his account), I invite anyone who has worked with Ms Kerkhoff – present and past colleagues, subordinates, supervisors and contractors – to post comment on our Shell Blog about what she is like to work with. Is she a kind, considerate person of integrity, a professional who treats colleagues with respect and is a pleasure to work with, or the opposite – bullying, abrasive, rude and vindictive? There is no need to register to post a comment on the Shell Blog. All postings are anonymous unless you choose to reveal your real identify.
A contracting company is obviously in a difficult position if its employees are abused, bullied and mistreated by employees of a major global client. Appeasement is the likely outcome when multi-million dollar contracts are at stake, thereby allowing any such despicable behaviour to persist without retribution.
The gentleman in question sent a conciliatory email to Jo Kerkhoff in a genuine attempt to defuse the situation and in the hope of building a long term professional relationship. He did so after obtaining the prior approval of the contracting company and Mr Mike Cisnero, the Shell-Motiva line manager of Jo Kerkhoff.
On one occasion, a subordinate to Ms Kerkhoff, Mr. Brandon Lawler, was allegedly seen with his ear up to the office door of the former federal agent, listening for over three minutes during a conversation he was having with a Security Officer, Mr William McNeil. The decidedly low tech surveillance was reported to Mr. McNeil by another Security Officer.
The former Secret Service Agent also discovered to his astonishment that after the unpleasant meeting with Jo Kerkhoff, when she repeatedly demanded that he should sit down, Kerkhoff allegedly carried out an unauthorised and therefore potentially illegal and certainly unethical, “background investigation,” on him, claiming she had unearthed derogatory comments about him. No evidence was provided (the allegations were without foundation) and he was given no opportunity to refute the false comments, the basis on which he was allegedly removed from his post.
Naturally this gentleman of impeccable credentials and reputation is disgusted at his treatment by Shell-Motiva who apparently support the activities of Ms Kerkhoff, who remains in her position as a Security Supervisor at the Shell-Motiva Norco site.
Shell had advance sight of this article with an invitation to investigate and/or provide comment for publication on an unedited basis. I also requested that the allegations be put to Ms Jo Kerkhoff, so that she also had an opportunity for right of reply. It follows that Shell and Jo Kerkhoff also had the opportunity to seek an injunction to prevent publication.
(ANY RESPONSE BY SHELL OR JO KERKHOFF WILL BE PUBLISHED HERE)
This is an extract from the claimed Business Principles of Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
Shell employees share a set of core values – honesty, integrity and respect for people. We also firmly believe in the fundamental importance of trust, openness, teamwork and professionalism, and pride in what we do.
The hostile work environment encountered by the gentleman in question was apparently sadly lacking in many of these claimed core values, especially respect for people and professionalism.
(The Shell Business Principles on shell.com are still signed by the long-departed former RDS Plc CEO, Mr Peter Voser. This provides an indication of the lack of importance given to them by his replacement, Mr Ben van Beurden.)
There is perhaps a more sinister dimension. In the course of carrying out his duties, the former federal law enforcement agent suspects that he may have stumbled across “some sort of payroll fraud scheme.” He now wonders if this was a factor in the turn of events that led to his, and his immediate predecessors departure from security oversight at the Norco facility.
The basic rights of an employee, including fair treatment, appear to have been sacrificed in the commercial interests of two multi-national giants. This leaves Ms Kerkhoff free to continue with the alleged deplorable behaviour towards colleagues referred to above.