Where Was Bob?


hile Gov. Robert F. McDonnell was attorney general in 2006, he did nothing when informed about serious accusations that eventually led to the conviction and 10-year sentence of John W. Forbes II, a former state finance secretary.

The accusations come from a front-page article today in the Richmond Times-Dispatch that details efforts to bring to justice Forbes, who was convicted in a $4 million fraud case involving a grant from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission

Forbes, who served in the cabinet under Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore, used money to set up a program designed to improve adult literacy but instead used a considerable amount of the grant to pay for salaries of himself and his wife and to buy himself a $1 million home.

The case is one of the biggest corruption scandals in recent Virginia history but as the newspaper reports, McDonnell did nothing when sent a four-page letter in October 2006 detailing concerns of wrong doing from a woman who worked for Forbes and then was abruptly fired when she asked Forbes about financial irregularities.

Neither McDonnell’s nor the attorney general’s office could find the letter, the newspaper says. Former state Sen. Charles R, Hawkins, R-Pittsylvania, who chaired the tobacco commission, also said he had no recollection of the letter.

The author of the letter, D.L. Billett Jr. of Chesterfield, whose former wife E. Denise Kent had worked for and had been fired by Forbes, kept pushing for a probe. He told the Times-Dispatch that he spoke with the attorney general’s office after sending the letter in 2006, but was told not to expect much in the way of an investigation. Billett could not remember the name of the official.

Finally, Billett sent the information to Sen. John C. Watkins, R-Powhatan, other political figures and the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. It finally ended up in the hands of the State Police 14 months ago which launched the probe that led to Forbes’ conviction.

This sorry chapters raises big questions about McDonnell’s competence, if not his integrity, when he was attorney general. The story seems to be a classic case of sweeping something potentially embarrassing to one’s political party under the rug — in this case than of the Virginia GOP. To their credit, other state Republicans had the integrity to push for a probe.

The pressure is now on for the General Assembly to create better checks and balances for public bodies such as the tobacco commission that is supposed to use billions in a settlement against major tobacco companies for the public good.

Another aspect is that many of the same Republicans who apparently refused to check into serious allegations of government misfeasance have no trouble painting Washington and the federal government as the source of all evil.

Let’s hope the pressure stays on for a reckoning.

Peter Galuszka

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6 responses to “Where Was Bob?”

  1. oldcavalier Avatar

    At one time this blog was full of common sense, now it reads like a DEM talking point. Contrary to your partisan expressions, McDonald is doing just fine. When people like yourself get upset, then it reaffirms that we elected the right person for Governor.

  2. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    Old Cavalier,
    So corruption is OK? Spare me your Virginia BS. Sorry if that is "ungentlemanly."

    Peter Galuszka
    (NOT a friggin Cavalier)

  3. So do you think the Gov. will find time to have someone check on the potential corruption with the Norfolk Light Rail that's been reported in the papers all week down here? For some reason the VP paper is the only one reporting the adverse VDOT report. I mean, VDOT does answer to McD doesn't it?

  4. That woman should get a $400k reward, plus her job back.

    And that would be cheap. You tip your waiter 20%.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Notable that Gov. McDonnell just this week reappointed Neal Noyes as executive director of the commission.

    Noyes hasn't exactly distinguished himself in this matter, either. From the T-D report we learn that Noyes wrote back to a would-be whistleblower in the Forbes case to state the following:

    "Policies and procedures are in place now that might dictate a longer oversight process by the commission than occurred with [the Literary Foundation of Virginia] but that does not indicate that the commission or LFV failed in their respective responsibilities in connection with the LFV grant."

    Might someone care now to revise that statement?

    Tom McLaughlin
    The News & Record, South Boston VA

  6. Loudoun Insider Avatar
    Loudoun Insider

    I've been complaining about the lack of any real investigative work from the AG's office for years. I tried to get them interested in various Loudoun County shenanigans but they had zero interest. Of course, Deputy AG Bill Mims at the time just happened to be involved in business deals with some of the big players. Virginia needs a truly independent Special Prosecutor to handle politically charged cases. Between inaction from the AG and various politically connected Commonwealth's Attorneys there really is no coordination as there should be.

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