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Plaintiffs’ lawyer Harlan S. Miller III says Georgia Gov. Roy E. Barnes’ testimony so dazzled a Fulton County, Ga., jury that they wrongfully denied his client the $7,080 a month pension she deserves. A six-person jury found against Miller’s client, former Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Dorothy Roach, Wednesday in Fulton County Superior Court. Miller says he attributes at least part of the jury’s decision to Barnes, who testified for three hours July 12. “I think they [the jurors] were bowled over and muscled by the governor’s testimony,” he says. Roach, who worked for the state for 30 years, had filed a petition for mandamus in Fulton Superior Court, charging that the Board of Trustees of the Employee Retirement Service wrongfully denied her the enhanced pension for involuntary separation. Under the retirement rules applying to Roach, she would have qualified for enhanced retirement status — calculated at 90 percent of her $95,000 salary at the time of her job separation in 1999 — but only if her dismissal was for no reason. However, the state claimed Barnes fired Roach for “irresponsible performance of duty.” The jury agreed, ruling that Roach knew or should have known her behavior would lead to her losing her job, and she therefore did not qualify for enhanced benefits. Roach v. Retirement System of Georgia, No. 99CV11990 (Fult. Super. verdict July 18, 2001). Roach’s current pension is $4,393 a month, about 55 percent of what she was making at the time of her dismissal. TRIED TO BLOCK GOVERNOR Miller filed several pretrial motions to exclude Barnes’ testimony but failed. Understanding that the state intended to call him, Miller later called Barnes for purposes of impeachment. The result was more than two hours of verbal jujitsu between Miller and the governor, as Roach’s lawyer tried to induce Barnes to say he had fired Roach so he could appoint someone else, rather than because Roach had violated state policy. The decision to let Barnes testify, Miller says, “subjected the jury to three hours of lecturing and political rhetoric.” Swayed by the proximity of the state’s chief executive, the jury ruled against Roach, Miller says. Much of the testimony hung on the interpretation of O.C.G.A. Section 50-5-78, which bars the DOAS commissioner from “accepting or receiving, directly or indirectly, from any person, firm or corporation to whom any contract may be awarded, any money or anything of more than nominal value …” RELATIONSHIP WITH VENDOR Roach was accused of forming an inappropriate relationship with, and receiving gifts from, Pam Davis, a vendor for Oracle Software and later for PeopleSoft. Both California-based companies won Georgia state contracts during Roach’s tenure, though testimony from Roach and from other state and company officials indicated that Roach had very little to do with awarding the contracts. However Gray, Hedrick & Edenfield’s Susan L. Rutherford, who represented the retirement board, told jurors that simply not being influenced isn’t enough. Roach had to ensure she avoided even the appearance of wrongdoing. “She didn’t bend over backward to avoid the appearance of impropriety,” she said. The state argued that Roach’s relationship with Davis was improper in itself. The gifts were simply symptoms of a friendship that became closer than Roach should have allowed. According to testimony in court, Roach met Davis in September 1996 in Savannah at a dinner sponsored by Oracle. “There’s no question she knew on Day One” that Davis was a representative of a company that did business with the state, Rutherford said. “She should have exercised caution in her relationship with her from that day.” Davis and Roach became close friends over the next two years, swapping Christmas presents and sharing meals. In March 1997, Roach accepted a balloon ride paid for by Oracle at a software conference in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Two months later, Rutherford noted in her closing, Oracle signed an $8 million contract with the state. Davis received a $200,000 commission. GIFTS’ VALUE CHALLENGED During his summation, Miller mocked the notion that a balloon ride was evidence of “some kind of sinister hand directing business to Oracle.” “Balloon ride in March — $8 million contract in May,” he said, smirking in disbelief. Between December 1997 and January 1998, Roach accepted a bird cage from Davis and a gift certificate for a full-day treatment at the Ch�teau �lan spa in Braselton, Ga. Though Roach and Miller repeatedly pointed out that she never used the gift certificate, Rutherford noted that she never returned it either. “Instead, she sent Pam Davis a thank you note, thanking her for the various gifts,” she said. At the same time, Davis began dating a manager in Roach’s office. The manager, Paul Mason, says he informed Roach of the relationship in September 1997. Roach said on the stand that she knew nothing of their relationship until January 1998, when she removed Mason from working on any project that might benefit Davis, by then a sales representative with PeopleSoft. In February 1998, Davis won another state contract, this time for PeopleSoft. A competing company filed a protest. Shortly afterward, WAGA-TV reporter Dale Russell began investigating rumors of conflict and favoritism in the DOAS. In an on-camera interview, Roach denied ever receiving any gifts from Davis. By the fall, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was examining Roach’s office and issued a report to Barnes in summer 1999. Barnes then offered Roach the option of quitting or being fired. Roach chose the latter. Later that summer, the board of the Employee Retirement System denied Roach’s request for enhanced benefits, noting that she had been fired for cause. Rutherford reminded jurors that if she had been fired for a reason that she knew or should have known would lead to her firing, then by law her separation was voluntary, and she wasn’t entitled to enhanced benefits. The state wasn’t arguing that Roach had done anything shady or corrupt deliberately, Rutherford said, but that she should have known that failing to avoid even the appearance of impropriety would lead to her firing. Throughout the trial, Miller and Rutherford wrangled about the meaning of the term “nominal value,” as it applied to the gifts Roach received. “You’ve heard that [term] over and over again. You’re probably sick of it,” Miller told jurors. “I know I am.” Miller told jurors that the term “nominal” isn’t defined in the statute. Arguably, he said, the items his client received were nominal in value. The head of DOAS has to use her own judgment, he said, which is exactly what Roach did. But a termination for cause, he said, requires a deliberate act, not an error in judgment. Roach was not foolish enough, Miller said, “to trade her life’s work for a bird cage.” Roach’s lawyer told jurors he understood Barnes’ desire to place his own people in charge of the important state agencies, including firing Roach. “He could have done that without labeling her a crook,” he said. Now, Miller says his client is exploring the possibility of an appeal. “We’re certainly considering that,” he says.

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