McDonnell’s mansion director leaves post

August 2, 2013

The director of the Virginia governor’s mansion, a likely witness in the October embezzlement trial of the former mansion chef, is leaving to take a job with the Richmond City Jail.

Sarah Scarbrough completed her doctorate in public policy and administration while overseeing the Executive Mansion for the past 3 ½ years. She will become director of programs at the jail, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s office announced Friday.

Scarbrough led the mansion at a time when the historic residence, which turned 200 years old this year, was the subject of admiring attention related to its bicentennial. But the mansion was also the subject of controversy, as McDonnell (R) and first lady Maureen McDonnell became embroiled in a gifts scandal that came to light after the firing of mansion chef Todd Schneider.

After coming under investigation, Schneider told authorities that the McDonnells had accepted lavish gifts from Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr., who picked up the $15,000 catering tab when one of the McDonnells’ daughters was married at the mansion.

Schneider also accused the McDonnells’ five grown children of taking food, liquor and other supplies from the mansion to their homes or college dorm rooms. The governor recently reimbursed the state $2,400 for items taken by his children. Cailin McDonnell returned the $15,000 that Williams spent on her wedding.

Schneider’s attorneys have made it clear that they intend to call Scarbrough as a witness in his October trial; they tried to put her on the stand at a hearing in the case in July, but the judge sustained a prosecution motion to block her testimony.

Scarbrough’s departure, first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, prompted a rare public statement from Maureen McDonnell, who has kept a low profile since The Washington Post first reported the wedding payment in March.

“We are going to miss Sarah very much,” Maureen McDonnell said in a prepared statement. “Sarah is more than a tremendous Mansion Director; she’s a friend to everyone who works in this historic home.”

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.
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