Sledd accuses Senate Democrats of "double standard" on appointment
Bob Sledd, Gov. Bob McDonnell's first choice to be secretary of commerce and trade, said in an interview this afternoon that Senate Democrats were holding him to a different standard by not allowing him to remain on corporate boards and recuse himself if a conflict arose.
Sledd, a respected Richmond businessman, said legislators recuse themselves all the time and he should have been allowed to do the same. "It's a double standard,'' he said.
Sledd said McDonnell gave him a choice late last week to "fight the battle" in the Senate or take on a new position. He said they both agreed that he should take on the job of senior adviser, where he will have an office alongside McDonnell in the Patrick Heny Building and work with several agencies.
"I did not want to be disruptive to the new administration,'' he said.
Sledd serves on boards of three large, global companies: tobacco giant Universal Corp. and Owens & Minor, a medical supply company, both based in Virginia; and Pool Corp., a wholesaler of swimming pool and spa equipment, based in Louisiana.
McDonnell's office floated a deal to leading senators in which Sledd would resign from the boards of the two Virginia companies, but remain a director of the Louisiana company. Senators, however, turned down the offer, arguing any board service represented an ethical problem.
Sledd said that he refused to step down from Pool Corp. because the company does less than one percent of its business in Virginia, and he could see no conflict. "The chances of conflict are almost non-existent,'' he said. "I hope as we move forward we can put partisan politics last."
Cheng was sworn in as secretary this morning at the Capitol. McDonnell's staff was phoning legislative leaders this afternoon to let them know of the change, according to the governor's office. The decision was so last minute that the new governor's Website, which just went live this weekend, still lists Sledd as commerce secretary.
Sledd said he was not disappointed with the outome, and praised commerce secretary Jim Cheng, who he had picked to be his deputy, "I'm fine with the whole thing,'' he said.
Officials at the governor's office say they continue to be believe that service on corporate boards is legal and permissible, but that that all McDonnell's appointees have voluntarily stepped down from any directorships they held. That includes Cheng, who sat on two boards.
January 17, 2010; 6:43 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell
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