Executive assistant testifies in race case

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Texaco financial officers kept two sets of meeting minutes and turned over only the “condensed” version to lawyers for blacks claiming race discrimination, an executive’s assistant testified Monday.
Joanne Laudicina took the stand in the obstruction-of-justice trial of retired executives Richard Lundwall and Robert Ulrich. In 1996, Lundwall went public with tapes of meetings on which executives allegedly belittled black employees and plotted to hide evidence. Black employees sued, and Texaco quickly settled for $176 million.
Miss Laudicina said that when plaintiffs in the class-action case demanded that Texaco turn over documents about how workers were evaluated for promotions and raises, she thought her minutes of finance department meetings might fill the bill since workers’ performance was a regular subject at the meetings.
But she had been keeping a double set of minutes since 1993 because executives felt the evaluation discussions were too sensitive to be widely distributed.
“Maybe these would be read by people who shouldn’t be reading them,” she said.
The “official minutes,” as she called them, left out any discussion of individuals’ performances. The complete, or “restricted version,” went to only four people.
When she asked Lundwall, her boss, which set of minutes to send to the lawyers, he said “the minutes that went with the books,” meaning the condensed version, she said.
Prosecutor Stan Okula then asked Miss Laudicina how the condensed version could satisfy the demand for information about personnel evaluations.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I didn’t think at the time.”
“Whose decision was it?” Okula asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I heard it from Rich.”
On cross-examination, however, she told Lundwall attorney Ethan Levin-Epstein that she never heard Lundwall say he was holding back or destroying any documents.
Lundwall’s lawyers have said he was given little guidance about what documents were to be turned over.
He and Ulrich could be sentenced to 10 years in prison if convicted.