PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – The chief financial officer of CVS Caremark Corp. testified Friday that he did not know two of his subordinates put a state senator on the pharmacy chain’s payroll for $1,000 per month.

But David Rickard acknowledged under cross-examination that consultants for the company could be hired without his approval.

Former CVS vice presidents John Kramer and Carlos Ortiz are accused of hiring former state Sen. John Celona so they could secretly influence his votes on bills that mattered to the company. Prosecutors say they disguised the real purpose of Celona’s job by hiring him as a purported public-relations consultant, offering him $45,000 between 2000 and 2003.

Rickard said he met Celona at several functions, but no one told him Celona was on the CVS payroll. He said under cross-examination that he typically did not know the identities of consultants that Kramer hired to promote various CVS charity events and that Kramer had the ability to hire consultants without seeking his approval.

Celona, who has pleaded guilty and is serving a federal prison term, is cooperating with the government and is expected to testify as the government’s key witness. Testimony started Monday, and the trial in U.S. District Court in Providence is expected to take several weeks.

Ortiz and Kramer are charged with mail fraud, conspiracy and bribery. Their trial is part of a federal investigation into influence-peddling at the Statehouse, which prosecutors have dubbed “Operation Dollar Bill.”

Defense lawyers say Celona did legitimate work for CVS and the executives never pressured him on legislation.

AP-ES-05-16-08 1843EDT

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