A marketing official backed away yesterday from an accusation he made against Jeffery Lyons in which he suggested the lobbyist was trying to shake down his company, Dell Financial Services.
Robert Simone, then sales director of Dell, a company that bid in June of 1999 on a computer-lease contract with the city, testified at the inquiry into the eventual deal that in a meeting in the spring of 1999, Mr. Lyons had asked for a payment of $150,000 if Dell was awarded the contract.
To characterize the request as a shakedown, as Mr. Simone had twice done in testimony on Monday, was "probably a strong term, yes," Mr. Simone told Mr. Lyons's lawyer, Todd White, under cross-examination.
Mr. Simone said, however, that he still feels that the request was inappropriate because it was made after the company had hired Mr. Lyons, on a $3,000-a-month retainer, to help it win the leasing contract. He said that he told Mr. Lyons that the company would make such a payment.
Mr. Simone reported the conversation with Mr. Lyons to the commission lawyers last September, just as the public inquiry into the lease contract, which the city eventually awarded to Dell Financial's rival, MFP Financial Services Ltd. of Mississauga, was about to start its hearings.
The hearings were then delayed two months while the Ontario Provincial Police investigated whether there had been any criminal wrongdoing. After their investigation, the OPP recommended that no charges be laid.
Mr. Simone had also testified that he recalls that Mr. Lyons had linked the $150,000 number to someone called Tom, which Mr. Simone testified that he took as a reference to Tom Jakobek, who was then city budget chief.
Mr. White asked Mr. Simone whether, in recounting the incident, he had ever suggested to the police or to the inquiry's lawyers that he felt that Mr. Lyons was seeking a bribe. Mr. Simone said that he never believed that to be the case. "I don't recall the term bribe being used," he said.
Mr. White also said that Mr. Lyons will testify that Mr. Simone's recollection is incorrect in that while Mr. Lyons talked about Mr. Jakobek in their conversation, it did not relate to the payment issue. Mr. Simone agreed that it is possible that Mr. Lyons's version of the incident is accurate.