State Sen. Chap Petersen has told Gov. Bob McDonnell he should either get rid of gifts from Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie Williams or resign his office.
State officials are supposed to disclose gifts and finances as a way for the public to insure they are not involved in any of conflicts of interests.
McDonnell did not disclose that Williams picked up a $15,000 tab to cater McDonnell’s daughter’s wedding, or paid for costly clothing for his wife or a $6,500 Rolex watch. Petersen asked McDonnell to disclose those gifts or show that he and his family did not in fact receive them. Petersen is a Democrat from the city of Fairfax who once unsuccessfully sought his party’s nomination for lieutenant governor.
Williams’ company has sued the state seeking to overturn a $1.7 million tax assessment. His company used the Executive Mansion during a promotional event and McDonnell’s wife has helped promote Star products, as well.
“It appears that you allowed this person to use the Governor’s Mansion and the Governor’s office for the purpose of giving unique credibility to his company,” Petersen wrote. “This is unacceptable.”
Petersen said McDonnell should either return the gifts, or sell them and turn over the proceeds to the state. “That is the only method by which the public can regain trust in your Office. Without that trust, there is no purpose in continuing to serve,” Petersen said.
“If you are unable to explain (or deny) these reports, or return the items, then I humbly suggest that you should step down as Governor,” Petersen continued.
Tucker Martin, McDonnell’s press secretary, said Peterson’s letter was “blatantly political” and not unexpected after a blog post from the senator complaining that Democratic Party leaders at the recent Jefferson-Jackson Day event didn’t raise the issue.
“The Senator’s letter appears to be premised on unconfirmed and inaccurate media reports,” Martin said.
He said McDonnell has been diligent over the years in making his financial disclosures.
“We are aware of no economic development grants, targeted tax incentives, government contracts or board appointments received by Star Scientific or Jonnie Williams during this Administration,” he added.
Martin said Virginia’s disclosure requirements do not pertain to the families of elected officials.