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A court hearing over a former state official’s retirement benefits became a verbal sparring match Thursday between a plaintiff’s lawyer and Georgia Governor, Roy E. Barnes. Harlan S. Miller, of Atlanta’s Parks, Chesin, Walbert & Miller, subpoenaed Barnes in a mandamus action on behalf of Miller’s client, former Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Dorothy “Dottie” Roach. Barnes fired Roach in 1999 after a state investigation revealed she had accepted gifts from companies selling goods and services to the state. Roach is seeking judicial review of the state’s decision to lower her pension because she was fired. The state awarded her $4,500 a month; she says she’s entitled to $7,800. Roach v. Retirement System of Georgia, No. 99CV11990 (Fult. Super. Aug. 2, 1999). Susan L. Rutherford, of Gray, Hedrick & Edenfield in Atlanta and Michael E. Hobbs with the state attorney general’s office are handling the case for the state. SPARRING STARTS EARLY The sparring between Barnes and Miller started early, with Barnes trying to add extensive and detailed explanations to his answers, and Miller trying to cut off the governor. At one point, when asked how the composition of the board of trustees for the employees retirement system changed after he took office, Barnes began describing the civil service careers of several of the board’s members. “And here’s why,” the governor added to his response more than once. “And here’s the explanation.” Miller objected, remarking that the political career of each board member was irrelevant to his question, which was simply whether the board changed after Barnes took office. Barnes bristled, saying Miller “was trying to infer some grand conspiracy of trying to remake the board.” Superior Court Judge Rowland W. Barnes allowed the governor to answer at length, including why each member had left the board and who the replacements were. When Barnes apparently finished his answer, Miller jumped in again. “Is there anything else you’d like to add, Governor?,” he asked. “No,” said Barnes with a grin, prompting chuckles from the audience. At another point, when discussing the governor’s testimony during a January deposition, Miller asked Barnes which appointments he had the power to make. The governor tried to answer before Miller had finished the question. “Would you like to direct me to the testimony, Governor?,” Miller interrupted. “Why don’t you direct me to the page and line?” Commissioner Roach, Barnes later testified, served at the will and pleasure of the governor, “which, by the way, is the way most people are employed,” the governor said, meaning at the pleasure of their employer. Miller objected again. “I am not interested in other employees who are not in government,” he explained to the judge. A few seconds of debate followed, with Barnes finally concluding, “Let me tell you something — you’re trying to imply something in your questions that is just absolutely …” “I object, your honor,” Miller said again. Smiling and shaking his head, Judge Barnes suggested that both witness and lawyer show more respect for the other. BARNES: FIRING JUSTIFIED Under cross, Gov. Barnes said that he had fired Roach because reports from the GBI and the Attorney General’s office had convinced him that Roach had violated her office’s requirement that the commissioner remain above all appearances of impropriety. “Not only did [Roach] not meet the requirement of Caesar’s wife,” Barnes said. “She didn’t meet the requirements of Caesar himself.” According to the attorney general’s report, Roach developed a close friendship with Patricia Davis, a sales representative at the time for Oracle and PeopleSoft. Both companies had done business with Georgia. Roach accepted gifts from Davis that included a balloon ride for her and her son, a birdhouse, a few dinners and a gift certificate for a full day at the spa at Ch�teau �lan. Roach was never charged with any crime in connection with the investigation. She was appointed to her post in 1996 by Gov. Zell Miller, and maintains that the gifts were part of a general exchange of gifts between friends and had no influence on her professional decisions. Her termination by the governor was not justified, she claims.

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