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Virginia Governor Repays State for Items Given to Kids

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    Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports on a hearing in the case of Todd Schneider, former chef to Gov. Bob McDonnell, who wants the embezzlement charges against him thrown out. (Published Thursday, Oct 31, 2013)

    Gov. Bob McDonnell reimbursed the state almost $2,400 for food and supplies taken by his children from the Virginia Executive Mansion kitchen since he took office in 2010.

    Most of the items -- cold cuts, Gatorade, paper products, laundry detergent and other pantry staples -- were given to three McDonnell children when they returned to college after weekend or holiday visits. Some also was packed for vacation outings or, in one case, a trip by the parents to visit their sons.

    The governor enlisted the mansion director and others to compile a list of items carted away by the children after former mansion chef Todd Schneider, who is facing embezzlement charges, accused the family of wrongdoing.

    Schneider blew the whistle when he learned he was under investigation for taking food from the mansion, which he says was in repayment for services.

    No charges have been filed against anyone other than Schneider, who is charged with pilfering goods from the mansion kitchen for use by his catering company. A Richmond judge on Monday took under advisement a defense motion to dismiss the four felony counts. Schneider’s trial is set for October.

    Anthony F. Troy, an attorney representing McDonnell's interests in the Schneider case, told reporters after the Monday hearing that there was no wrongdoing and parents typically pack food and other items for their children to take back to college with them and the governor's family should be allowed to do the same. He described the value of items taken on each occasion as minimal.

    “Every family sends their children back to college like that,” he said.

    In a memo accompanying his check, McDonnell told Dennis Johnson of the Secretary of Administration office: “My understanding from Mr. Troy's email, and a discussion with him, is that providing all or most of these items for my children who were in college at the time, was generally permissible since the state guidelines contain no prohibition, and such expenses may be customary for first families with a returning college student. Nonetheless, the total over 3 1/2 years for my children is an invoice I will now pay to ensure that there is no question that any potential personal expense has been reimbursed.”

    Almost $2,000 of the total was for food and supplies taken by the McDonnells' sons, Sean and Bobby. About $150 of that was for this year's spring break trip to Miami, and nearly $127 for a March 2012 parental visit. Their daughter, Rachel, received goods worth nearly $400 -- some of it for a beach trip and for a move to Virginia Beach.

    McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said the governor reimbursed the expenses “out of an abundance of caution.” He also noted in an email that the McDonnell sons each took back to college an average of $62 worth of items per trip. Rachel McDonnell returned to school each time with an average of $26 per trip

    The detailed lists did not mention liquor and pots and pans that Schneider also alleged were taken from the kitchen by McDonnell family members.

    Schneider also claims in court papers that the governor required him and other state employees to work private and political events. He says that in lieu of payment for those events, he was directed to take the food that he is now accused of stealing.

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