LOS ANGELES: Former Fleishman-Hillard GM Doug Dowie has launched another salvo in his wrongful termination suit against the agency, claiming that he was fired for knowing that Fleishman was reimbursing employees for political contributions, an illegal act.
He claims the firing was an attempt by the agency to discredit him.
Fleishman strongly denied the allegations. Chairman and CEO John Graham was deposed this week in the same matter, according to Dowie's attorney.
"Any suggestion that any current Fleishman-Hillard executive or any senior FH executive outside of Los Angeles was responsible for reimbursing FH-LA employees for political contributions is utterly false," said the agency's lawyer, Mark Beck, in a statement. "It is also completely false to claim that Mr. Dowie was fired for any reasons other than mismanagement of the Los Angeles office and failing to comply with company policies."
Dowie has asked the court to allow him to amend his suit to include the new allegations, which his attorney, Michael Faber, said are supported by the recent deposition of Fleishman CFO Fred Rohlfing.
During that deposition, a copy of which was obtained by PRWeek, Rohlfing said that he thought there was a "possibility" that bonuses paid to four LA employees in 2001 may have been related to political contributions made to local campaigns. He added that he informed the private law firm handling an internal investigation of the matter, and the results of that investigation were given to authorities.
Fleishman responded to Dowie's claims by saying that "contrary to the insinuations [in the amendment], neither Mr. Rohlfing nor FH ever turned a blind eye to any questions raised about contribution improprieties."
Faber, however, said, "Fleishman knew that Doug was in a position to implicate them in money laundering and it's our contention that one of the reasons they terminated him was so that if he ever was to raise those allegations in a public forum, he would be discredited as a disgruntled, terminated employee."
The case stems from allegations that Fleishman fraudulently overbilled clients including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power by millions of dollars. Fleishman settled a civil suit with the city, but Dowie and his former Fleishman deputy John Stodder Jr. are facing criminal charges in the matter, and a third Fleishman executive, Steve Sugerman, reached a plea agreement and is expected to testify against Dowie. Investigators are also still looking into whether city officials may have awarded lucrative contracts based in part on political contributions.
Also this week, a judge heard arguments regarding the admissibility of polygraph evidence in the upcoming trial, but did not make a ruling on the matter.