RICHMOND, JUNE 13 -- The simmering rivalry between Gov. L. Douglas Wilder and fellow Virginia Democrat Sen. Charles S. Robb spilled over again today when the governor accused a Robb deputy of spreading a rumor that the state Democratic Party hasn't paid its legal fees for representing Wilder in last year's election recount.
Wilder took the unusual step of suggesting that the source of this and other rumors about his administration was Robert L. Watson, Robb's state director and vice chairman of finance for the state Democratic Party.
Questioned about an article in The Richmond Times-Dispatch today that quoted an unidentified source as saying that some legal fees from the recount remain unpaid, Wilder said: "I knew more about that in reading this morning than I ever knew."
Asked whether, as titular head of the state party, he could assure payment, Wilder snapped: "The titular head of the party, I guess, ought to be that person who usually is given anonymity" in news reports. "I would imagine to get the direct source you'd have to go to Mr. Watson . . . who obviously has far more information on this than I do. And he could tell you. That's the source of what's going on in Democratic quarters."
Wilder, whose longstanding independence within the party has led to other feuds with Robb and party officials, seemed to indicate that he still views himself as something of an outsider. "The party is being led by the same persons who have been leading it for a long time, and what takes place in a four-year period doesn't really change things," he said.
Watson denied that he was the source of the article.
Whether the legal fees are in dispute could not be determined. Paul Goldman, Wilder's hand-picked state party chairman, refused to discuss the matter other than to say the party has paid about $70,000 in recount expenses.
One of the lawyers whose firm helped with the recount declined to say whether the party had paid its fees, citing attorney-client privilege. But the lawyer, former state attorney general Anthony R. Troy, said he was assured Saturday that $2,170 in costs incurred by his firm was going to be paid.
Wilder has been sensitive about the topic of unpaid bills since it was revealed last month that his inaugural committee is feuding with a printer over the cost of invitations to his Jan. 13 inauguration. Wilder repeated today that he has "nothing further to say" about whether that bill has been paid or about the size of the surplus that remains from his inauguration.