But in an interview, James McGlothlin said the $21 million family foundation never named McDonnell to its board.
Instead, McGlothlin said, the family asked Maureen McDonnell to become an adviser to the charitable efforts of both the family foundation and the United Co., a natural resources and real estate company in Bristol, Va., that has made the McGlothlins one of the wealthiest families in the state.
McGlothlin, who founded the company in 1970 and is its chairman and chief executive, said the first lady is paid by the company and not the foundation.
By reporting that his wife was on the board, the governor never had to say on his financial disclosure form how much she was paid. McGlothlin confirmed the salary.
A spokesman for McDonnell declined to comment about the arrangement, saying that all questions about it should be directed to McGlothlin.
Elected officials in Virginia are legally required to disclose any employer that pays their spouses at least $10,000 annually. Separately, they also are required to disclose whether they or their spouses are paid directors or officers of any company.
If the governor had indicated that Maureen McDonnell’s position with the United Co. was a job that provided her with an annual salary, the public would have been able to conclude that her paycheck exceeded the $10,000 reporting threshold.
By listing it as a paid trusteeship instead, he did not have to provide any information about the size of her compensation.
News of the relationship comes as the FBI and Virginia State Police are exploring the McDonnells’ finances as part of an inquiry into the couple’s dealings with Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the chief executive of a dietary supplement manufacturer who paid $15,000 for the catering at the 2011 wedding of the McDonnells’ daughter.
Michael Herring, commonwealth’s attorney in Richmond, has confirmed that he has been conducting a review of McDonnell’s financial disclosures since November.
For a few days of work, Maureen McDonnell picked up a salary nearly equivalent to the average starting pay of a Virginia teacher. As governor, Robert McDonnell is paid $175,000 a year.
McGlothlin said that Maureen McDonnell never asked to be paid but that the company decided to compensate her for her advice. He said the arrangement was born over a dinner at which he, his wife the governor and first lady got to talking about how the McGlothlins’ charitable interests in education and health care aligned with those Maureen McDonnell has pursued as first lady.
He said she attended two or three meetings with company and foundation officials in Bristol as part of the arrangement.