Democrats say Virginia Cabinet appointee must resign from boards

Robert C. Sledd serves on three boards.
Robert C. Sledd serves on three boards. (Steve Helber - AP)
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By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 15, 2010

RICHMOND -- Democrats in the Virginia Senate have the votes to block the appointment of Gov.-elect Robert F. McDonnell's choice for secretary of commerce and trade if the appointee does not remove himself from several corporate boards, the chairwoman of a key committee said Thursday.

Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax), who leads the committee that first reviews gubernatorial nominees, said Democrats are "convinced of the need for McDonnell's nominee, Robert C. Sledd, to resign as director of the three publicly traded companies while serving in the state's top economic job.

"We're quite convinced there is a serious conflict of interest, and there will not be the votes to confirm him," said Howell, chairwoman of the Privileges and Elections Committees.

"If he leaves the boards, I expect he will be confirmed. But if he does not, I know he will not be confirmed," she said.

McDonnell, a Republican, on Thursday called Sledd an "incredibly accomplished businessman and a job creator extraordinaire" and said he thinks legislators respect Sledd's reputation. But McDonnell, who will be sworn into office Saturday, declined to say whether he had asked Sledd to resign from the boards. He has previously said he does not think the board service would be a conflict of interest.

"We're going to talk to the legislators," McDonnell said. "We've been talking to some of them. I have full confidence he'll be confirmed. Whatever their concerns are, we'll find a way to work those out."

Sledd is the former chairman and chief executive of Performance Food Group. He has said he donates to charity the salaries he receives as a director of the tobacco company Universal Corp.; Owens & Minor, a medical supply company; and Pool Corp., a wholesaler of swimming pool and spa equipment.

Staff writer Anita Kumar contributed to this report.

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