RICHMOND, MAY 31 -- Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who takes pride in penny-pinching, is disputing the cost of the invitations to his historic inauguration earlier this year.
A Richmond office supply company contends that Wilder owes $192,300 for the 75,000 invitations it printed to the governor's Jan. 13 swearing-in, but Wilder's inaugural committee has refused to pay, saying it was "astounded . . . by the unreasonably high" bill.
"It's been a political nightmare for me," said Larry Faulkner, president of Joyce Office Products Centers in Richmond, which has been doing printing for Virginia's governors for nearly a century.
Faulkner told the Newport News Daily Press that Wilder's inaugural committee never asked the price of the invitations, which wound up costing more than the entire state-appropriated inaugural budget of $150,000 and nearly six times the $33,000 spent for invitations to the inauguration of Wilder's predecessor, fellow Democrat Gerald L. Baliles, four years ago.
Faulkner said changes in the design of the invitations proposed by Wilder's inaugural committee, including larger paper and four-color renderings of the state seal, led to the higher cost.
Wilder's press secretary, Laura Dillard, said today that inaugural officials expected the bill to be higher than four years ago, because of inflation and because Wilder ordered 75,000 invitations, compared with 50,000 for Baliles. But she said the company assured the committee that the design changes would not result in "an inordinate increase" in cost.
Dillard blamed the high cost on a decision by Faulkner to delay the printing a month, until after an election recount was settled on Dec. 22. As a result, she said, the company had to hire extra workers on overtime to complete the job over the holidays, resulting in labor costs of $159,750. Dillard said several other printers, consulted by the committee after the bill was received, estimated that the labor costs should have been $30,000 to $44,000.
"The taxpayers are not going to foot a bill they shouldn't have to," Dillard said.
The state appropriated $150,000 for the inaugural ceremony, while a private inaugural committee raised about $1 million to pay for a gala, ball and other unofficial events that surrounded Wilder's swearing-in as the nation's first black elected governor.
Wilder has refused to say how much he raised from private sources or how much remains, leading to speculation that he hopes to use any surplus for political purposes.
Wilder has done little to discourage conjecture that he would like to seek national office; out-of-state trips, such as ones planned to New Hampshire and Iowa in the next few weeks, have further fueled the speculation.
Robert J. Grey Jr., who serves as lawyer for the inaugural committee, said, "It's not a matter of trying to hoard or protect" the surplus. The bill hasn't been paid because "there is so much discrepancy between what we thought would be reasonable," he said.
Dillard said the committee is "willing to assist the state to pay a fair and reasonable amount," but is not convinced the cost should exceed what is available from the appropriated state funds.
House of Delegates Clerk Joseph H. Holleman Jr., whose office is charged with paying the official expenses of the inauguration, said he got a check from the state treasurer today for $43,793 -- all that remains from the appropriated $150,000 -- to apply to the printing bill.
Holleman said he wrote Wilder 10 days ago asking for "some direction" on what to do about the $148,507 balance due. Wilder has not responded, Holleman said, but if the governor refuses to dip into his private surplus fund, Holleman said he may have to seek additional money from the state's tax-supported general fund.