Officials learned of Schneider’s conviction and his hundreds of thousands of dollars of debts from an article in The Washington Post on Sunday. A day later, administration officials determined that they had not instructed Virginia State Police to conduct a check as is the norm for political appointees.
The governor’s office blamed the mistake on a frantic first few months in office and a desire to quickly hire an executive chef for McDonnell (R) and Virginia’s first family after they moved into the mansion in January 2010.
It’s unclear whether the state neglected to properly vet other employees at the start of McDonnell’s four-year term, but the governor’s office says it was not a pattern.
“The hiring process for positions within the administration, including at the mansion, requires a full vetting of the applicant and a criminal background check,” McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. “There was a departure from this process in the case of Todd Schneider, who was hired very early in the administration.”
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.
Bill Daddio, retired associate director for protection for the U.S. Mint Police, said the state, like the federal government, should conduct criminal background checks as a matter of procedure. And, he said, it would be smart to do a financial check as well.
“Could the person have been violent? I’m sure they are aware of that possibility,” Daddio said. “I suspect they are embarrassed.”
Schneider, 51, is a well-known caterer in Virginia political circles. His Richmond catering business, Seasonings Fine Catering and Event Planning, had done work over many years for national and state politicians, including former governors Timothy M. Kaine (D) and George Allen (R) as well as U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), according to state and federal campaign records.
Schneider did not return calls seeking comment. Two people familiar with the matter said Schneider has retained lawyer Steve Benjamin, who declined to confirm whether he had been hired by Schneider.
Martin said Schneider did not disclose his criminal background when asked during his interview whether anything in his past would embarrass McDonnell or himself.
“No one currently involved in applicant vetting was aware of any potentially disqualifying information on record about him, nor was it disclosed during the interview process,” he said.
Martin said that if the administration had known of Schneider’s background, which also includes civil judgments and tax liens, he would not have been hired.