March 26, 2002
Enron 'evidence' boxes hold used cups, chili bowls
By DANA WILKIE
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON – At long last, California law enforcers this month
descended on 700 boxes of "evidence" they hoped would help their investigation into Enron Corp.'s alleged electricity price gouging, and they discovered this:
And crumpled tissue.
And used coffee cups.
That was just some of the booty the state Attorney General's Office uncovered when Enron's Portland, Ore., officials – facing a
contempt charge – finally said they would turn over documents a
San Francisco judge ordered them to surrender.
"We're still looking through (the boxes)," said Attorney General Bill Lockyer. "It's a little distasteful."
An Enron spokesman insisted that Lockyer got what he asked for.
"They were not given just trash," said the spokesman, Eric Thode. "They were given 500 boxes of recyclable materials, and 150 to 200 boxes of what we believe to be relevant to their investigation."
Yesterday, an incensed Lockyer asked San Francisco Superior
Court Judge A. James Robertson II to hold Enron in contempt of
court. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
"We've been trying to get information out of Enron for almost a
year now," Lockyer complained.
The state is investigating charges that Enron may have artificially inflated the cost of West Coast electricity, and contributed to California's blackouts and skyrocketing energy costs.
Last summer, Lockyer subpoenaed Enron documents that contained pricing policies, energy costs and schedules of power delivery.
Last month, after the court ordered Enron to comply with the
subpoena, Enron officials agreed to let Lockyer's deputies – as well as deputy attorneys general from Washington and Oregon – view records in the company's Portland office. Enron conducted its West Coast trading operations in Portland.
Enron officials handed over 700 cardboard boxes.
Inside, investigators found empty pizza boxes, crumpled tissue, used coffee cups, bread crumbs and plastic bowls with crusted chili remnants. They found mail-order catalogs, personal letters, and lots of useless paper.
However, they found a few boxes that may have contained some of the information they sought, Lockyer said. State officials are still examining that material.
It took seven deputies two full days to get through little more than half the boxes, said California Deputy Attorney General Hiren Patel, who added that Enron held back at least 200 boxes it claimed might have confidential material protected from the judge's order.
"When we walked in, we believed Enron would produce material
that was responsive to our subpoena," Patel said. "What we got
were just miscellaneous documents and trash that had been dumped from the office."
Enron spokesman Thode explained that the 50 employees at the
Portland office began saving all paper products – including those
that went into recycling bins – upon learning of Lockyer's subpoena. Some employees must have discarded trash into paper-recycling bins, he said.
"We didn't want to be accused of getting rid of any documents at that office," Thode said. "We went above and beyond the call of duty."