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California

Former Davis Aide Faces Charges in Oracle Probe

March 03, 2004|Carl Ingram | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — A mid-level assistant to former Gov. Gray Davis was charged Tuesday with falsifying evidence in a nearly two-year investigation into a state $95-million no-bid software contract with Oracle Corp.

Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer filed 12 felony counts against Kari Dohn, 40, in Superior Court, but said he had found no evidence of other alleged crimes and expected no one else, neither government officials nor Oracle Corp. executives, to be charged.

Asked why only one person had been charged after what Lockyer called an exhaustive investigation, he said crimes hadn't been committed by others. "If there's no evidence of crime, we don't prosecute."

The Oracle contract, awarded in 2001, was later rescinded by the state.

If convicted, the attorney general said, Dohn could face penalties ranging from probation to 20 years in prison.

Her attorney, Allen Ruby, said she would plead not guilty and would be vindicated. Since leaving state government, Dohn has been working for a lobbying firm in Sacramento.

"Unfortunately, she will have to bear the pain of the wrongly accused," Ruby said. "She will bear that burden but come away with exoneration."

Lockyer refused to divulge what evidence Dohn was alleged to have falsified, but said she had made "changes" in telephone records, schedules and reports. He also declined to indicate whom he believed she had been protecting.

In legislative hearings in the spring of 2002, Republicans zeroed in on a $25,000 check for the governor's reelection campaign that had been hand-delivered by an Oracle lobbyist to Arun Baheti, who at the time was Davis' director of e-government.

The contribution was made only days after the $95-million contract was signed. Baheti was later fired by Davis. Republican leaders cited the contribution as a demonstration of the Davis administration's alleged "pay to play" policy.

Although Lockyer refused to detail the alleged falsifying of government documents, he said three "modifications" had been made soon after the legislative hearings began. Two occurred May 6, 2002, the day Dohn testified at the hearing; another occurred May 14, the day after the committee asked the governor's office for contract-related materials.

Lockyer, who said the probe was virtually concluded, reported that his investigators had spent thousands of hours on the case, interviewed 70 people, filled 34 document boxes and collected enough evidence to fill a good-sized room 1 1/2times. An aide estimated the cost of the investigation at between $500,000 and $1 million.

The charges against Dohn angered Senate President Pro Tem John L. Burton (D-San Francisco), who suggested she had been made a scapegoat while others involved in the scandal had escaped being charged.

"This was a high-profile deal and ... he had to come up with somebody," Burton said, referring to Lockyer. He asked rhetorically how Dohn, who he said was of the "highest moral rectitude," could be accused of covering up something unlawful, but the person who had committed the illegal act had not been charged.

Hand-picked by Davis for his personal staff, Dohn served as his policy director. Her jurisdiction ranged from Cabinet-level issues to supervising day-to-day operations of the governor's office.

Dohn was briefly at center stage during hearings in 2002 by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which was investigating the awarding in 2001 of the Oracle contract to upgrade state government computer systems. Oracle predicted it would save the state more than $100 million. The contract was not put out to competitive bidding.

Some state managers recommended against purchasing the software, saying it would not get the job done. Later, the state auditor reported that the deal would end up costing the state as much as $41 million.

During the hearing, Dohn was characterized as having pushed hard for rapid action on the contract and information about it so that she could brief Davis, a briefing that never occurred. In her testimony, she insisted the issue had been of "low priority" in the governor's office and that her approval of a document authorizing the deal had been "almost ministerial."

Legislative investigators also suggested that Dohn had altered calendars to delete references to a possible meeting with Oracle officials.

Dohn is scheduled to appear in court today.

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