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Welcome to the governor’s mansion, where so many scandals reside that they’ve moved into his private home.
Friday, July 19, 2013
There seems to be no end to the unraveling of Gov. Bob McDonnell. The latest news on the ethics watch is that the governor is renting his $835,000 Henrico County home to Dr. Cynthia C. Romero, whom he picked in January to be state health commissioner.
The governor could be either Romero’s supervisor or her landlord. He can’t be both without running head-on into a conflict of interest, though lately it seems McDonnell is concussed from banging into repeated bad judgment calls.
The McDonnell-Romero landlord-tenant relationship is not remotely akin to an employer offering a newly hired high-level executive temporary use of a corporate apartment while searching for a home. It’s a personal financial relationship that is helping to pay the mortgage on a house for which the McDonnells reportedly owe more than it’s worth.
As Larry Sabato, a political science professor and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, explained to the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Suppose the governor wants to fire the commissioner. Does anybody think he wouldn’t consider losing the substantial monthly rent? Suppose the commissioner is unhappy about plumbing or repairs or rent increases. Does anybody think she might be hesitant to approach her boss?”
The newly exposed ethical lapse speaks of a man — whom even political opponents once thought ethically sacrosanct — privately spending well beyond his means, always an exercise in poor judgment, and then compounding his mistake by making one after another.
The Henrico County home, purchased by the McDonnells in 2006 when he took office as attorney general, is just one of several top-notch, heavily mortgaged properties the first family owns. News accounts report that McDonnell’s “friend” Jonnie Williams, who gave the governor and first lady expensive gifts and helped to pay for the first daughters’ weddings, also gave a $70,000 “loan” to the real estate company formed by McDonnell and his sister to manage jointly owned Virginia Beach properties.
The governor is finding that a house built on indiscretions cannot withstand the tide of scrutiny. As it collapses, the question haunts: Will more skeletons shake loose?
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