Dowie’s Civil Case Is Dealt a Blow
As jurors deliberate criminal charges against former public relations executive Douglas Dowie, a federal judge threw the one-time Los Angeles political power broker out of civil court Monday after he failed to prove that he was fired improperly.
The tentative decision by U.S. District Judge Margaret M. Morrow was a blow to Dowie, now being tried on criminal conspiracy and fraud charges of overbilling Los Angeles on behalf of his then-employer, Fleishman-Hillard Inc.
A jury is now deliberating Dowie’s fate in the criminal case.
Dowie, 58, a confidant of former Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn and a former managing editor of the Los Angeles Daily News, claimed in the parallel civil lawsuit that he had been fired because he uncovered a scheme of illegal campaign contributions by Fleishman-Hillard’s Los Angeles office, which he headed.
The St. Louis-based public relations firm settled a lawsuit and paid the city more than $6 million in damages for overbilling the city’s water and power, port and airport agencies.
Anthony A. DeCorso, who represents Fleishman-Hillard, argued Monday that Dowie was interviewed five times by investigators looking into allegations of wrongdoing but he never mentioned any illegal activity until after he was fired.
“He was never acting as a whistle-blower, there was never a whistle to blow on and he was not fired because he found a whistle to blow,” DeCorso said.
DeCorso cited nine reasons for Dowie’s dismissal, including that he ran an office that could not justify hundreds of thousands of dollars in billing.
Dowie contends that Fleishman-Hillard executives were so fearful of criminal indictments against the firm that they “sacrificed” Dowie to save themselves, according to court papers filed by Michael J. Faber, Dowie’s lawyer in the civil case.
Dowie alleges that executives at Fleishman-Hillard’s St. Louis headquarters reimbursed executives in Los Angeles for making political contributions to favored candidates. His lawyers allege that Fleishman-Hillard tried to cover up its own misdeeds, failed to investigate Dowie’s claim and did not talk to three of four executives who were allegedly reimbursed or to executives who initialed and signed the checks.
Fleishman-Hillard countered that Dowie “was the instigator” of the reimbursements at issue and repeatedly told superiors and investigators that there was no campaign contribution impropriety in Los Angeles.
In the criminal case, Dowie and a former aid, John Stodder Jr., are on trial in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess. Jurors are considering whether Dowie led a scheme to repeatedly overbill city taxpayers at a time when Fleishman-Hillard had been retained for $3 million a year for consulting services for the Department of Water and Power.
Dowie and Stodder, accused of bilking about $325,000 from the DWP and other clients between 2000 and 2004, have said they didn’t know of any overbilling schemes.