PatriciaGate: More heads roll and...what California's AG *didn't* say

Summary:In it's first major step towards reconciling a scandalous breach in corporate integrity and character, HP CEO Mark Hurd finally came forward last week to clear the air over what I've been referring to as PatriciaGate here on ZDNet (it's referred to that elsewhere too and I am not taking credit for coining the term). Or, at least to clear as much air as HP's lawyers felt was safe to clear.

In it's first major step towards reconciling a scandalous breach in corporate integrity and character, HP CEO Mark Hurd finally came forward last week to clear the air over what I've been referring to as PatriciaGate here on ZDNet (it's referred to that elsewhere too and I am not taking credit for coining the term). Or, at least to clear as much air as HP's lawyers felt was safe to clear. Dunn obviously still believes she's innocent. Questions about Hurd's involvement still remain with his innocence so far resting on his claim that he did not read a key e-mail that contained the details of HP's nearly year-long inquest into who was leaking HP-confidential information to the press. To me, it's reminiscent of Bill Clinton's now infamous "I didn't inhale." Had Hurd read that e-mail during the period of time he says he didn't read it (he has obviously read it in the last few weeks), then the accountability for HPs actions regarding the investigation actually predates the point at which he publicly took ownership of it during his press conference this past Friday. 

Note to the authorities and HP: To find out if Hurd read the e-mail question, just check out the back up tapes of HP's email system.  They should indicate whether or not the mail was ever opened by Hurd, or not.  To cover that up would require a fairly significant effort that could be easily exposed. Both HP and the authorities should be equally interested in having those tapes investigated since they'd reveal one more piece of the truth and Hurd would be one step close to exoneration.

So far, Hurd appears to be safe and there's some significance in the fact that California State attorney general Bill Lockyer went so far as to say on CNBC that "We don't yet have any evidence that would lead to the CEO as one of those that committed the crimes." Lockyer was careful to note that the investigation isn't complete yet. But, there's something that's equally if not more important about what Lockyer didn't say as what he said.  Recall that approximately two weeks ago, it was the same Lockyer that said "We currently have sufficient evidence to indict people both within HP as well as contractors on the outside."

So far, Lockyer hasn't backed away from that statement. Between the sufficient evidence to indict HP insiders and the fact that Lockyer was relatively quick to issue Hurd a Get out of Jail Free card does not bode well for Patricia Dunn.  If the investigation has reached a point at which Hurd's name can be cleared, I'm guessing that Dunn's name could have been cleared by now as well. But it hasn't which is why it made sense for her to step down from the board of directors altogether.

Dunn obviously still believes she's innocent. In her acceptance speech when she was inducted into the Bay Area Council's Bay Area Business Hall of Fame at a gala event last week (an induction which should have been postponed if you ask me), Dunn said:

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 and go back to living my life as discreetly as possible.

But so far, Lockyer has apparently not released Dunn from the sights of his investigation the way he has Hurd (although Hurd is not completely out of the fire just yet).  Not surprisingly, HP's chief ethics officer and senior counsel Kevin Hunsaker has been sacked as has some of the other actors.

Finally, I was glad to see that Robert Scoble was one of the few people that joined me in speaking out against the distasteful jokes made by Dunn during her induction and I'm sort of surprised how she as well as the attendees at the gala event have so far gotten a hall pass for the faux pas. Dunn joked about how she could use a few more controversial comments by the Pope in order to distract the press from her plight. Two weeks ago, the Pope's comments about Islam sparked waves of outrage amongst many Muslims (and quite possibly, some fatal violence too). There's nothing funny about it. I highly doubt Muslims see it as a laughing matter. Nor do I think the Pope would have gotten a good chuckle out of it. Quite frankly, it was the first time I really wanted to disassociate myself from the industry that I've dedicated my entire career to. Dunn as well as all of those in attendance who laughed loudly at the time should be ashamed of themselves. Someone should have had the guts to stand up and scream "That's not funny Ms. Dunn."  Or maybe the leadership of the Bay Area Council should have revoked her induction on the spot.  But, like sheep being led to slaughter, everybody just went along with it as though nothing was wrong.

Topics: Hewlett-Packard

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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