RICHMOND — Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) declined on Thursday to discuss allegations that the governor’s adult children had taken large quantities of food and liquor from the mansion to their own homes or dorm rooms.
“There’s a lot that I’d like to say about that,” McDonnell said. “But there’s a pending criminal case. These are allegations made by a defendant in a criminal case. I believe that the prosecutors in that case will handle that case well, and I’d refer any question on that to them.”
McDonnell made the comment during a conference call from Tokyo, where he was wrapping up a 17-day trade mission that also took him to China and California. It was his first public response to a court filing made earlier this week in the felony embezzlement case against Todd Schneider, the former mansion chef.
In the court filing, Schneider made a records request that suggests that first lady Maureen McDonnell and their five children had taken more than they were entitled to from the mansion kitchen.
He sought records including: “lodging and resources provided to Jeanine McDonnell during her residence at [gubernatorial retreat] Camp Pendleton, believed to be for several months in early 2012; bottled waters, cups, Gatorade, protein powder and other items taken from the mansion by Sean and Bobby McDonnell for use at their college residences; flats of eggs taken from the mansion by Rachel McDonnell; liquor taken by Rachel McDonnell or her boyfriend, Nick, from the mansion for a private party at Camp Pendleton; pots and pans from the mansion given to Jeanine, Rachel or Cailin McDonnell by Maureen McDonnell.”
The request itself is not evidence of any wrongdoing by McDonnell or his family. But it could be damaging for McDonnell, particularly following revelations that a Virginia businessman paid the $15,000 catering bill at Cailin McDonnell’s wedding. Schneider, who catered the mansion wedding in June 2011 through a private firm he ran while employed as the mansion chef, also sought information about any other gifts that Williams provided to McDonnell family members.
Under Virginia law, office-holders may accept gifts of unlimited value so long as they disclose any worth more than $50. McDonnell did not disclose the wedding payment from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., which was first reported by The Washington Post, but he said he did not have to because it was a present to his daughter, not him.
McDonnell has refused to say whether Williams has provided other gifts to family members. McDonnell and his wife have promoted Williams’s company, Star Scientific, a former cigarette maker that makes a nutritional supplement and facial cream under the brand name Anatabloc. McDonnell has said their efforts to boost the company were typical of work they’d do for any Virginia enterprise.
Star is the subject of a federal securities investigation and two shareholder lawsuits claiming that the company misled investors about Anatabloc’s scientific promise.