When Lawyer James I. Burkhardt was acquitted recently of charges that he helped direct a major Washington-area prostitution ring, he and his friends celebrated at an Alexandria bar across from City Hall that is half-owned by Burkhardt's wife.
Now the bar, Ireland's Own, is embroiled in a controversy centering on allegations that convicted Northern Virginia illegal bingo operator Alva Ford (Fordie) Thompson may own a secret interest in it.
A suit filed by minority stockholders in the bar claims that Thompson has received $100-a-week management fees from the establishment and, along with Burkhardt, has taken an active role in running it.
The suit, filed in Alexandria Circuit Court, says that if a convicted felon -- as Thompson is -- holds an interest in the bar, the State of Virginia could lift its liquor license.
Burkhardt, a former president of the Alexandria Bar Association, described Thompson as a lifelong friend and denied yesterday that Thompson had any interest in the bar. "Fordie Thompson is neither an officer, director or stockholder of the place," Burkhardt said in a telephone interview.
Burkhardt acknowledged that Thompson provided bookkeeping services for the bar, but he said the $100-a-week fees went to Thompson's corporation rather than to Thompson himself.
Patrick Troy, president of the bar's corporation, and two other officers, Maureen Quinn and Peggy Shrum, are asking a Circuit Court judge to appoint an outside receiver to determine the bar's true owners and current financial position. The three, who together own 35 percent of the bar's stock, said they were unaware until recently of Thompson's alleged secret interest.
Thompson was convicted last year of four felony gambling charges in which prosecutors said he operated an illegal bingo operation that earned $1 million. pFairfax prosecutors said he kept two sets of books for bingo games from which he skimmed $346,000.