Embattled Hewlett-Packard chairman Patricia Dunn told an appreciative audience in San Francisco Wednesday night that she looks forward to the opportunity to “set the record straight” regarding allegations that she oversaw an internal investigation of the company which may have broken the law.
Dunn made the remarks during a previously-scheduled event where she was inducted into the Hall of Fame of a group of San Francisco Bay Area government and business leaders.
An audience of about 800 people at The Westin St. Francis hotel on San Francisco’s famed Union Square, gave Dunn a standing ovation.
“All I will say about the maelstrom of recent unwelcome attention is that I look forward eagerly to the time in the near future when I will be permitted to set the record straight,” she said.
Dunn was honored by the Bay Area Council for her success in business and her philanthropic work. Besides being chairman of HP, she was vice chairman of Barclay’s Global Investors. Dunn also is on the board of a nonprofit program helping troubled youth in San Francisco and a program for providing health care to the poor in Oakland, California.
The audience was largely supportive. “I think she was courageous” to appear, said Lynette Busby after the speech while her husband, James, added, “she hasn’t been convicted of anything and in America that’s important. She is a very forthright person.”
But there was some criticism.
“I think it’s unbelievably arrogant of [the council] to select her when she is under an egregious cloud of suspicion,” said one local attorney who declined to be identified. Even though she was chosen for the Hall of Fame before the scandal broke, the honor should have been withdrawn, he said.
She and others involved are accused of “doing things that are contrary to the best values of America.”
Dunn also tried to make light of her situation. While she said she wanted to set the record straight, she added, “and in the meantime it wouldn’t hurt if the pope would continue to make controversy.”
Dunn is one of several people who have agreed to appear at a Sept. 28 hearing of a House Subcommittee probing allegations that HP hired private investigators to determine which of its board members were leaking news of board deliberations to the media. The investigators allegedly obtained private phone records of board members, some HP employees, and reporters under false pretenses to determine the source of the leak, a tactic called pretexting.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee is considering federal legislation to outlaw pretexting. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is investigating the possibility of filing state charges against people implicated in the scandal.
Dunn was forced to announce Sept. 12 that she will resign in January from the chairmanship of the HP board, although she will remain a director, amid news reports about her role in ordering an investigation of the board media leaks. She has stated she did not know outside investigators were using pretexting and that she kept a distance from the investigation, but a Wall Street Journal article Wednesday, based on an internal HP report, indicated she may have been more involved in the probe than she indicated earlier.
-Robert Mullins, IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)
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