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Hays, Donovan ruled by their egos

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Posted: Friday, December 26, 2003 10:00 pm

I have often wondered what possesses some people to subject themselves to an interview with "60 Minutes."

I'm certain ego plays a big part in the decision, but, more often than not, the person being interviewed winds up looking pretty foolish after the taping ends.

A recent Sacramento Bee article (reprinted Monday in the News-Sentinel) almost took on a "60 Minutes" flavor when interviewing Michael Donovan and Randy Hays, two of the principle players in the long-running groundwater contamination litigation.Bob Johnson

From some of the responses attributed to Donovan and Hays, one has to wonder if their egos got in the way when answering questions about the lawsuit.

Legal billings associated with the suit are receiving increasing scrutiny and people all over town are wondering if anybody has been paying attention while the bills rose to the mutli-million dollar level. When questioned, Donovan and Hays have appeared to be almost confrontational in their responses.

Having an "in your face" attitude may be part of the DNA of most litigators, but when they are being hammered almost weekly in the press, you would assume they might back off - at least a little bit.

But not these two. Donovan and his firm have received $14 million in fees from the city. When questioned about his representation, Donovan responded: "I'm an expensive guy."

Perhaps a more prudent response might be a reasoned explanation as to why he might be worth the millions billed to date.

When asked about the clerical charges of $115 per hour to "rehang a wall map" and to "organize, rebox and replace document storage boxes on racks," Donovan cavalierly referred to such charges as "marginal."

The attitude of City Attorney Randy Hays is even more perplexing. Charged with the responsibility of reviewing and approving Donovan's legal billings, it looks like Hays has blown it big-time. Despite that fact, he appears to be unapologetic.

In its investigation, the Bee failed to locate receipts for $6 million worth of funds paid to Donovan. Hays had no idea where they might be. Hays apparently approved a billing by Donovan for 4.7 hours of legal work at a rate of $13,000 per hour. According to Hays, it is a mathematical error which will be rectified.

One wonders why it was ever approved. In response to having paralegals be paid $115 per hour to "analyze" the News-Sentinel for stories about litigation, Hays indicated that "this is not something I'm going to argue about because I'm not running the case."

Say what you will about Hays, but he is an experienced city attorney and it is difficult to understand why he has developed not only such a confrontational attitude but also why he let this billing question get so out of hand.

Make no mistake about it folks - we've got real problems in livable lovable Lodi.

♦ ♦ ♦

Christmas came early to Lodi Middle School in the form of a $30,000 donation from Alex Spanos which was used to create a new technology center.

The Spanos contribution funded 60 percent of the purchase of new computers to be used by students in a 10 week program during which they learn graphic arts programming and how to use Power- point software.

However, school administrators and staff members were disappointed that the Grinch showed up the same day that Spanos family members dedicated the new computer lab. In an effort to lend a bit of pizzazz to the event, local staffers extended an invitation to the grand opening to a number of district dignitaries only to be both embarrassed and disappointed when none of them showed up.

With seven board members, a superintendent and at least five or six assistant superintendents, it's hard to believe that someone in the district hierarchy couldn't have found time in their schedule to visit the school to personally say "thanks" to the Spanos family for their support.

With the chronic shortage of cash facing our school district, it doesn't make too much sense to offend anyone in a gifting mood, especially one with such a large checkbook.

♦ ♦ ♦

On a brighter note, 2004 is on the horizon.

I hope the new year will bring an end to many of our troubles and will provide us an opportunity to move forward as a cohesive community to face the numerous new challenges that are surely on the horizon.

So all of us at the Johnson house (Bob, Carolyn, Bob, Suzanne, Elizabeth, Larry and Shannon) wish each of you a happy, peaceful and prosperous new year!

Bob Johnson is a member of Lodi's Parks and Recreation Commission. He may be contacted by e-mail at value@softcom.net.



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