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Virginia Politics
Posted at 03:11 PM ET, 03/28/2012

McDonnell staff: All political appointees except chef were vetted

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) office on Wednesday said it had verified that criminal background checks were conducted on every political appointee before they were hired, except for the Executive Mansion chef.

The announcement came a day after McDonnell’s administration acknowledged that it did not know executive chef Todd Schneider had been convicted of embezzlement because it failed to conduct a criminal check on him.

Schneider left his job this month amid a investigation by Virginia State Police. The Richmond FBI office initially was involved, but is no longer, according to an official with knowledge of the inquiry who was not authorized to speak publicly. An FBI spokeswoman did not immediately return a call for comment.

Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Polarek and her staff are charged with vetting nearly 300 political appointees, including the chef and thousands of people named to boards and commissions.

In every other case, McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said, the staff instructed State Police to conduct a check as is the administration's general practice for political appointees.

Schneider, 51, is a well-known caterer in Virginia political circles. His Richmond catering business, Seasonings Fine Catering and Event Planning, received $45,000 from McDonnell’s inaugural committee in 2006 and $7,000 in 2010, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a non-partisan tracker of money in politics.

Schneider did not return calls seeking comment.

In 2000, Schneider was charged with three felonies - including embezzlement, according to court records. He received a six-month suspended sentence for misdemeanor petty larceny embezzlement, the documents say. It is unclear whether he pleaded guilty or was convicted in a trial.

Schneider has been taken to court by various people alleging debts. He has incurred more than $400,000 in debts over two decades, but much of that was in the past 10 years and all before he was hired at the mansion, according to court documents. Records and interviews show some cases have been resolved, but the disposition of other cases remains unclear.

Schneider, who turned over his catering business to staff when he took the chef's job at the mansion, was recommended for the job by a former mansion director.

Schneider was put on paid administrative leave Feb. 10 and left his job March 5. The governor's office announced last weekend that Schneider no longer worked for the state. Officials said they were prevented from saying whether Schneider, who made $60,000 a year as the mansion's chef, was fired or left on his own.

By  |  03:11 PM ET, 03/28/2012

 
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