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California offical in court over Oracle mega-deal

'Falsification of reports'

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An aide to former California governor Gray Davis appeared in court yesterday on charges of falsifying evidence in the investigation into California's megabucks licensing deal with Oracle.

Kari Dohn did not enter a plea, but listened quietly while the charges against her were read out, the San Diego Union Tribune reports, She is accused of falsifying six reports and schedule entries.

Her lawyer Allen Ruby said she will plead innocent to the charges, which are "without merit...The case will either be dismissed or there will be a trial and an acquittal".

The case centres on a software licensing deal the Davis administration signed with Oracle.

The state auditors' office discovered that normal competitive tendering rules were ignored when the $93m contract was awarded. Further, instead of catering for the quarter of the state's 230,000 staff who needed database access, the deal covered 270,000 licenses.

Auditors estimate the six year contract would have cost the state $41m more than it needed to, had it been left to run its course. The contract has since been cancelled.

Heads began to roll in late April, 2002, and four top civil servants either resigned or were sacked. First to go was the head of State's IT advice department Elias Cortez, who worked for Oracle in 1997, and contracts chief Barry Keene, a former state senator. Both resigned.

The investigation has run for nearly two years, and Dohn is the only figure from the administration suspected of criminal wrong-doing. State attorney general Bill Lockyer said he had found no evidence against the former governor, or four senior staff fired during the inquiry.

If convicted, Dohn faces up to nine years in chokey. She is scheduled to return to court on 13 April. ®

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