News that Sharon Stone will guest star on the new Showtime series "Huff" as a larcenous "high-powered Los Angeles public relations executive" caused the PR industry blog Media Orchard to muse whether she works for Fleishman Hillard. Funny that should come up. Doug Dowie, the indicted former head of Fleishman's Los Angeles office, filed a legal paper yesterday in federal court that lays out his contention that the public relations giant's top executives improperly reimbursed more than $17,000 in staff donations to local politicians.
The brief by Dowie's Santa Monica lawyer, Michael J. Faber, alleges that he was wrongfully fired from his $330,000 a year post as part of a Fleishman strategy to avoid federal prosecution. They will fight out the merits of that in court, but the memorandum of points and authorities has some dish of possible interest. Fleishman execs in St. Louis are shown as happy that Dowie—former managing editor of the Daily News—was regarded as a key adviser to then-mayor Jim Hahn and unbothered by media stories [here was mine] that made him out to be a controversial figure.
In February, 2004, [Dowie] was honored with the American Jewish Committee’s Civic Leadership Award. The event was Co-Chaired by Fleishman’s Chairman, John Graham, together with former President Clinton’s Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta, Governor Gray Davis, former Commerce Secretary and U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor and others. In attendance were Mayor Hahn, and an array of national, state and local civic and political leaders, together with the company’s most senior executives who flew from St. Louis to attend and acknowledge his leadership.
Soon after, the brief says, Controller Laura Chick raised questions about Fleishman's possible role in pay-to-play practices at City Hall and company records were subpoenaed by the feds. Fleishman hired the downtown law firm Munger, Tolles and Olsen to do an internal investigation, but when the law firm turned up evidence of illegal campaign contributions they were dumped, according to Faber.
The problem was first revealed in Munger, Tolles’ interview of one Samantha Sackin on June 25, 2004...Her revelations sparked considerable anxiety among [Fleishman's] most senior executives....
Ms. Sackin told her interviewer that in late 2001 or early 2002, Mr. Dowie delivered a bonus which she believed was in reimbursement of her campaign contributions. She also told the interviewer that she was not the only one, identifying at least one other person, Jamie Ludowitz, as a “suspicious” bonus recipient. Crucially, Ms. Sackin also recalled Mr. Dowie’s irritation when giving the bonus to her, saying that he admonished her, “Don’t ask me any questions about this. Now leave my office.”
The brief contends that Dowie urged Fleishman's highest executives not to illegally reimburse Sackin, Ludowitz, Mark Barnhill and Steve Sugerman for political contributions, but that company chairman John Graham went ahead and the firm "embarked on a coverup...Fleishman knew all along that its Chairman, John Graham, had laundered the contributions, and that [Dowie] was dead set against it." Fleishman and Graham say Dowie was responsible for the laundering and disagree with other claimns in the brief. Next hearing in Dowie's lawsuit against Fleishman is May 8, if I'm reading the legalese correctly.
Photo: Media Orchard