Eiffel-Tower-2By Peter Galuszka

The major focus of speculation in Richmond these days may be on whether or not Gov. Robert F. McDonnell will be indicted, but there are plenty of other, lesser situations involving public officials that show just how badly Virginia’s ethics rules need fixing.

State and local officials have a long history of cozy relationships with business people affected by policies they set.

The latest news concerns something that almost happened but didn’t. It turns out that Secretary of Health and Human Resources William A. Hazel Jr. and state Medicaid director Cindi B. Jones were packing their bags to vacation in France with a top lobbyist for managed care.

At the last minute, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association announced that senior vice president Christopher S. Bailey wouldn’t be jetting off to France with the state health officials after all.

Although the trip was to be enjoyed by “friends” and everyone was to pay his or her way, one has to assume that the association decided that with the McDonnell scandal so much in the news, the whole thing probably wasn’t such a good idea. An added factor is that it and state officials are in the midst of discussing how the state will handle Medicaid payments with the Affordable Care Act about to take effect.

The news comes after Henrico County’s school chief was put on paid leave and was told his contract would not be extended after his close ties to a vendor were questioned. It turns out that Patrick J. Russo, the schools chief, traveled to Tuscany with former school board member Diana D. Winston and her husband, Joe Winston, whose company does business with the school system. Diana Winston resigned her post after questions were raised about her husband’s relationship with Russo and the school system. There are reports the State Police are investigating.

In a case from 2011

, about a dozen state legislators who would be considering lifting a ban on uranium mining in the state were flown by the company Virginia Uranium to visit an abandoned mine in France. The outing included a night out in Paris. The company is trying to have the ban lifted so it can develop a large uranium deposit in Pittsylvania County.

These trips are generally legal in Virginia as long as they officials report them, but they show just how permissive Virginia is and how that leads to relationships that are anything but in the interest of the public they serve.

McDonnell’s case is extreme and has brought for calls for a special section of the General Assembly to consider a host of reforms, such as the formation of a state ethics commission, a ban on gifts or setting a limit (there is none now) and forbidding unreported gift-giving to immediate family members of public officials.

Some, such as Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, who is running for governor, want the special session before the General Assembly meets in January. But that would play into the political hands of Cuccinelli, who was also caught getting gifts and not immediately reporting stock interest involving Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the head of the dietary supplement maker who is entangled in the McDonnell mess.

A prosecutor has said Cuccinelli has violated no laws, but he has still been sullied in the affair, as the latest poll seems to attest. It showed his Democratic rival, Terry McAuliffe, ahead of him 48 to 42.

The sad thing is that the fervor for real reform appears to be dying down. The editorial writers at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the voice of Main Street Republicanism in Virginia, seemed to be firm in their support for major changes. Then this morning they said the current law allowing unlimited hard money campaign donations should be kept with no limits on giving, just better reporting.

Bad idea.

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17 responses to “Ethics Issues Go Far Beyond McDonnell”

  1. I don’t want to be a stick in the mud here but when the top guy in a company or govt demonstrates a lack of ethics – it sends an inescapable message to all who work in the same organization – to pervade the culture of the organization.

    So if the boss in a state agency wants to engage in sleazy ethics – in a govt where the top guy has signaled his lack of concern on the issue, then the subordinate employee knows they better damn well keep their mouth shut or they will lose their job.

    this then becomes the culture of the agency, the govt – where those who take them job and their ethics seriously become much like folks with the wrong gender preference.. staying in the closet…

    McDonnell has very seriously damaged the govt in Va. There are now dozens, hundreds of subordinates who have received his message “loud and clear” and thousands of others who are receiving a message “keep your mouth shut if you want to keep your job.

    All the worse, this slime is rolling downhill from folks who claim Conservative principles of “good government” provided by dedicated public servants.


    cue the right-leaning apologists… weighing in on how Kaine was just as dirty with MWAA and other irrelevant and distracting blather.

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    Well written, Peter! This is not just a Star Scientific story. It’s not just a Star Scientific and Consol Energy story. It’s the story of a political elite who are totally divorced from the electorate they serve. And, amazingly, that political elite has anesthetized the electorate into believing that there’s no problem.

    Throw the bums out!

    That’s the only answer.

  3. the latest polls give McDonnell 40% support on honest and ethics…..

    Apparently McDonnell knows more about Virginia voters than pundits and blogger-mouths, eh?

  4. Other examples could be cited. You are right, McDonnell is not an isolated episode.

  5. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka


    Don’t think of us as “blogger mouths” think of us as “magic fingers.”

    1. Peter, I’m pretty sure the technical term for you folks here at Bacon’s Rebellion is “local blogger”, eh?

      And by the way, referring to Jim as a “local blogger” was definitely a snarky thing to do. He was a “guest columnist” according to the paper itself (same as Lafayette, btw), and she ought to have referred to him by name and referenced his op-ed – by using the phrase “local blogger” without mentioning that his argument had been actually published as an op-ed, she definitely undermined Jim’s legitimacy.

      She was responding specifically to a prior, published op-ed in the same paper that she was writing for, so she should have specifically cited the prior article.

      1. The second and third paragraphs are not at all aimed at you, Peter – not calling you snarky or anything.

  6. last time I heard that phrase it was about the prowess of the guy doing a colonoscopy…..

  7. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka


  8. actually comparing what McDonnell did to a colonoscopy in not inappropriate.

  9. kaylamorris Avatar

    Dear Peter, et al.,

    I’m wondering in particular about a recent move that seems to have gotten no press. This weekend I saw for the first time that Williams is being represented by McGuire Woods CEO Richard Cullen. Who is Richard Cullen? He was co-chair of Ken Cuccinelli’s transition team. His son (also named Richard) is Cuccinelli’s Director of Communications. His brother, Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell, was head of Governor McDonnell’s transition team. Richard’s nephew, Peter Farrell, is a Republican in the House of Delegates. According to VPAP, Cullen has already given almost $10,000 to Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign.

    This all seems particularly sloppy given the incestuous improprieties of the entire scandal. Is it safe to say he may not have his client’s best interests at heart, when his son, his brother, his nephew and his own fortunes hinge on a Cuccinelli victory?

    1. All very interesting and relevant. I wish I had the resources to publish a wiki, whereby readers could click on an individual’s name and find all this info laid out before them.

      Just one question: When you said, “His brother, Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell….” Whose brother? From the context, it sounds like you mean Cullen’s brother. Are they half brothers by different fathers?

      1. kaylamorris Avatar

        Greetings James! Thank you for your blog, I love it!

        The McGuire Woods website links to a RTD story saying:

        “Farrell knows Cullen as well as anyone in Richmond. After all, they are related by marriage to sisters who grew up with Cullen in Staunton, his adopted home after his family moved there from Brooklyn, N.Y., when he was about 5. “He’s probably my best friend,” Cullen said of his brother-in-law. Ironically, Farrell worked for McGuireWoods’ biggest competitor, Hunton & Williams, when he met and married his wife, Anne Garland. Her sister, Aggie, was already married to Cullen.”


  10. kaylamorris illustrates what the value of good investigative journalism is – that is often lacking now days.

    in the internet age – one would think it would be easier to do some drill-down
    on the players.

    not sure kaylamorris knows the info but it certainly is exceptionally relevant.

    we need a VPAP of the personalities on Virginia’s political map.

    thank you.

  11. oops, my bad

    ” not sure HOW kaylamorris knows the info but it certainly is exceptionally relevant.”

    I’m sure you do KNOW but was curious HOW you know….


  12. kaylamorris Avatar

    Re: Conflict of Interest?

    Greetings larryg, internet search “richard cullen” then search “richard cullen” cuccinelli then do it on vpap.org. The info is in the top handful of results.

    Long time reader and a first time poster… and I thought maybe for the first time I have something useful to add! Kay

  13. awesome Kay! good work! and keep posting!

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