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A plea deal in the case of the executive mansion chef doesn’t put an end to a scandalous melodrama.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Virginia taxpayers finally saw a return last week on the $243,000 they’ve expended in the court case against Gov. Bob McDonnell’s former chef. They’ll collect $2,300 in restitution for munchies Todd Schneider raided from the First Pantry.
And let’s not forget the $486 assessed for court costs.
Hooray. Or, more appropriately, pffft.
Schneider pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges of embezzlement but maintains he was acting on a “bartering agreement” to compensate him for catering of private and political events.
The back-scratching wasn’t confined to the executive mansion kitchen, as Schneider was quick to point out.
His fricassee-and-tell revelations soon stirred up separate state and federal investigations into gifts the governor and his family collected from Star Scientific executive Jonnie Williams Sr.
Faced with the prospect of trying to prosecute the cook while providing legal advice to state employees likely to be summoned as witnesses, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli handed off both assignments to surrogates, including two private law firms hired to represent the governor and staffers. Still other lawyers helping McDonnell field questions from federal prosecutors in the gifts scandal are being paid via a private defense fund.
The fact that Williams directed smaller amounts of swag to Cuccinelli may not have factored into this legal eagle extravaganza, but it has added to the melodrama of an election year when the Republican is in a too-close-to-call contest to succeed McDonnell.
And with the gift probes still in play, the billable hours will continue to flow, at taxpayer expense.
As he departed a Richmond courthouse last week, Schneider told reporters, “Now it’s time for me to move on, love life and love myself and make great food for people.”
Virginians, on the other hand, will be stuck with a bone in their throats until the details of this sordid affair are fully and publicly sorted out and, more importantly, until state leaders are shamed into establishing stricter ethics rules along with an independent watchdog charged with enforcement.
That’s the restitution taxpayers really want, and deserve.
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