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New Va. Tech visitor steps down from group that recommends visitors

Rosalind Helderman

Newly appointed Virginia Tech visitor John Rocovich has stepped down from his job on the commission that suggests college visitor appointments, a spokeswoman for Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has confirmed.

McDonnell named Rocovich to the Virginia Commission on Higher Education Board Appointments on May 20. Former governor Mark Warner (D) created the panel to recommend names for college boards after allegations that visitor appointments had become too politicized and ideological during the term of Gov. James Gilmore (R).

Rocovich, who heads a Roanoke law firm, served as a visitor at Virginia Tech under Gilmore. He was not reappointed to the board after Warner took office. Last week, McDonnell reappointed him to the Virginia Tech board, drawing fire from the gay rights group Equality Virginia because of Rocovich's role in stripping sexual orientation from the school's nondiscrimination policy during his first term on the board.

So was this a Dick Cheney case? Recall that when George Bush was running for president in 2000, he named a group to recommend his vice president. Dick Cheney chaired the group. And, at the end of the day, Bush chose the guy heading the search for the job.

McDonnell spokeswoman Stacey Johnson said the commission did not come up with Rocovich's name: "The VCHEBA is an advisory commission that exists to assist the Governor with college board appointments," she said in a statement. "However, the Governor is always free to make these appointments without any consideration, involvement or approval by VCHEBA. For this specific appointment, in order to avoid any possible conflict of interest, the Governor acted independently."

But in the meantime, Rocovich must leave the commission because he was filling a spot on the group that is by law reserved for former boards of visitors members. Now that he is a current -- and not former -- board member, he no longer qualifies.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  July 6, 2010; 4:09 PM ET
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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