Interviews, testimony on Fumo-Verizon deal

Posted: June 25, 2007

At a federal court hearing Monday, prosecutors and the FBI disclosed new details about an agreement between Verizon and State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo (D., Phila.).

Prosecutors say Fumo pushed Verizon to give money to a South Philadelphia charity - and to hire a law firm as part of a deal in which Fumo dropped his push for Verizon to be broken into wholesale and retail operations.

Verizon did not make a contribution to the charity, known as Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods. But it did agree to hire a law firm of Fumo's choosing, according to testimony.

Verizon rejected two firms - Dilworth Paxson, where Fumo is of counsel, and Sprague and Sprague, Fumo's personal attorneys - before agreeing to give work to Thomas A. Leonard of Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel.

1. Following are excerpts from FBI interviews with Julia Conover, former general counsel of Verizon, on May 5 and 27, 2004. She talks about her dealings with Daniel Whelan, at the time president of Verizon Pennsylvania.

"Conover was aware that a gentleman's agreement had been reached between Whelan and Fumo at the time of this meeting regarding the legal work that Fumo wanted to designate.

"One of Whelan's conditions was that Verizon required a bona fide law firm doing legitimate legal work. Furthermore, she and Whelan agreed that Verizon could not use Dilworth Paxson because it would result in money going directly into Fumo's pocket. When Sprague & Sprague was suggested as an alternative, she and Whelan shot that down, because the scope of Verizon's legal work required a full-service firm.

"Initially, Whelan agreed on supplying legal work for $500,000 a year for five years, but later came back to Conover and said it would be $1 million a year for three years."

2. Excerpts from an FBI interview with Stephen R. Wojdak, a Verizon lobbyist, on Nov. 29, 2005. In addition to the legal work, Wojdak said, Verizon agreed to make contributions to the Philly Pops:

"The two items that Wojdak became involved in mediating were the law work and the contributions to Philly Pops. Wojdak spent an inordinate amount of time on the Philly Pops, as it became a problem almost from the beginning. Fumo contacted Wojdak about Verizon's non-payment of the Year One installment. According to Whelan, Verizon was still waiting for a contribution request form from the Pops, which they needed before any checks could be released. . . .

"Fumo also called Wojdak to relay his law firm's selection, although Wojdak did not know the agreed-upon amounts or the terms surrounding the legal work. Despite Whelan's previous stance on Dilworth, Fumo again pressed for that firm to get the work. When Verizon rejected that choice, Fumo put forth Sprague & Sprague as an alternative. Verizon also rejected them. At this point, Wojdak believed Fumo suggested Verizon hire Tom Leonard from Obermayer, who Verizon had previously used to handle the appeals during the litigation."

3. Grand jury testimony from Daniel Whelan, also Nov. 29, 2005:

"Question: Had there been over the course of months continuing efforts by Sen. Fumo to persuade you to use Dilworth or other firms?

"Answer: I had no direct conversation with Sen. Fumo. But Steve Wojdak called me on at least two occasions - the dates of which I cannot specify, but on two occasions, indicating - what's wrong with Dilworth? And I told him, I just kept telling Steve, it isn't going to happen.

"In one of the conversations, Mr. Wojdak suggested the Sprague firm, and I have to admit, I started laughing at that one. Sprague and Fumo have been close friends and allies for a number of years. . . . I didn't think of Sprague & Sprague as a general-purpose law firm of the type that Verizon would normally use."

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