Catherine Stevens Unhappy With Aspects of Renovation

Posted October 16, 2008 at 11:12am

Updated: 1:30 p.m.

Catherine Stevens, the wife of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), testified in his criminal trial on Thursday that she was in charge of the 2000-01 renovations at their Alaska home and that she believed the carpentry company she paid employed all of the workers on the job.

Sen. Stevens has been charged with failing to report tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts on his annual Congressional financial disclosure forms. The bulk of the case revolves around renovations that were performed at the couple’s home in Girdwood, Alaska, by Bill Allen and workers at VECO, the oil-services company that Allen owned. Prosecutors allege that the work cost VECO and Allen about $188,000, and that the Stevens family never paid the company or Allen.

The defense has argued throughout the case that the Senator had little direct involvement in the renovation project because his wife paid all the bills, made most of the decisions and was present at the home far more often than he was.

Catherine Stevens testified that she was between jobs in the fall of 2000, and said that “since I had the time and interest I was the one who was going to be in charge of the renovations. … Ted was too busy.”

Catherine Stevens said that she understood that carpenter Augie Paone and his company, Christensen Builders, were the general contractors on the job. The defense has already entered into evidence invoices and checks showing that she paid Paone about $131,000 for his work on the home.

Catherine Stevens also testified that she had met Rocky Williams and Dave Anderson, two VECO employees who said they logged hundreds of hours working on the job, but that she believed they worked for Paone.

Catherine Stevens said Allen’s role in the project was helping to locate workers who could help out on the job. She said she assumed those workers were paid by Paone.

Catherine Stevens also testified that she was very unhappy with some of the items Allen put in the house.

Among the gifts the Senator is alleged to have received from Allen are a high-end outdoor gas grill and a houseful of used furniture. Allen has testified that he brought the furniture from another apartment that he had in Alaska, and that Ted Stevens had not asked for the grill.

When the furniture was first mentioned in the defense opening statements at the beginning of the trial, Stevens’ attorney Brendan Sullivan had said that Catherine didn’t like the items Allen had brought into the house. At the time, the Senator’s daughter and other family members sitting in the public gallery smiled and nodded their heads.

During her testimony Thursday, Catherine admitted that she “was a very unhappy person,” when she saw the used furniture in the house. She said that the furniture was inappropriate, and that her own furniture had been removed. She testified that she called Allen to ask what he had done with her furniture, but still has no independent knowledge of where it is.

When the defense showed her a photo of the overstuffed leather sofa Allen put in the house, Catherine Stevens winced, shut her eyes, put her hand to her forehead and then ran her fingers through her hair.

She also testified that she was angry about the arrival of the gas grill. “It was very dangerous, it was a fire hazard, and I didn’t want it on my deck,” she testified.

Both Catherine Stevens and the Senator’s daughter, Susan Covich, who testified Tuesday, said they saw evidence that Allen was using the house regularly.

Catherine Stevens also said that she opened a line of credit at the Alaska National Bank to pay for the renovations at the Girdwood home, and that she believed she and the Senator were being billed for all of the work done there.