LOS ANGELES: Midway through the first week of testimony in the federal conspiracy and wire-fraud trial of former Fleishman-Hillard, Los Angeles, GM Douglas Dowie and SVP John Stodder, it become apparent that its anticipated three- to four-week time span could be "woefully short," according to U.S. District Judge Gary Feess.
The week's proceedings began with testimony by government witness Katherine Forrester, an SVP in Fleishman's St. Louis-based corporate IT department, who authenticated the origins of e-mail evidence presented in the case.
The second government witness, former LA Department of Water and Power (LA DWP) Director of Corporate Communications Randy Howard, underwent more than four hours of intense direct- and cross-examination regarding his role in reviewing bills presented for Fleishman's PR services. Under oath, Howard informed the jury that beginning in early 2003, he "became suspect" of the firm's higher-than-expected invoices and voiced his concern to both his LA DWP superiors and representatives of then-Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn's office.
"Subsequent to that," Howard said, "I was reassigned."
Also called to testify on behalf of the prosecution was former Fleishman VP of public affairs Monique Moret, who managed the utility's $3 million-a-year time- and materials-based PR account from August 2002 through her departure from the firm in late 2004. According to Moret--who has been granted government immunity as a co-conspirator in the suit--under the direction of Stodder, she would regularly add non-worked hours to employees' time sheets, "to bump up our billings" to meet financial goals forecasted by Stodder and Dowie.
As a publicly held company, Moret noted, it was essential that these weekly, monthly, and annual revenue predictions were met. There was a "commitment made to St. Louis," she told Assistant US Attorney Adam Kamenstein. But at times, Moret said, the billing numbers "were not legitimate."