Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sledding into a conflict of interest

Robert Sledd, appointed by Governor-elect Bob McDonnell as Secretary of Commerce and Trade, wants to stay on the board of directors of three corporations while serving in public office. Sledd desires the arrangement so much that he's even offering to take a pay cut. In a weak attempt to justify the questionable situation, a McDonnell spokesman said:
The point of his proposing this is to save the commonwealth money, and to stay connected to the business community....
Sledd is on the board of directors of Universal Corp., a Richmond-based tobacco giant; SCP Pool Corp.; and Owens & Minor Co., a Richmond medical supplies distributor. He earns more than $224,000 from the companies, not counting Universal Corp., for which his earnings are not available.

It is appalling that Governor-elect McDonnell and Mr. Sledd would even float this idea. Even friends worry it may create an impression of conflict-of-interest since the Secretary of Commerce and Trade is the big kahuna over more than a dozen state agencies that oversee businesses. The Secretary is also a key advisor to the Governor on policies, influences legislation, and enforces state laws on business issues.

This arrangement, although neither technically illegal nor unheard of in American politics, is just plain wrong. Dave Levinthal of the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics (created the that tracks federal campaign contributions) noted:
If you're in a position of public trust and you're working on behalf of a private interest all the while, there are some concerns that could be raised about where your interests really lie.
Bob Gibson of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, a UVA-based training program that emphasizes ethics, bipartisanship, thoughtful public policy, and building public confidence in government called the arrangement "unusual."

Mr. McDonnell, Mr. Sledd - the very fact that you are considering this "unusual" deal should give Virginians reason to pause and consider how well your ethical and moral barometers really function. We want and demand a full-time Secretary of Commerce and Trade who is not burdened by perceived and actual conflicts-of-interests. If Mr. Sledd is unwilling to give up those directorships during the next four years, then he should withdraw from the appointment before the new Governor takes office. Otherwise there will be a taint of favoritism and the stench of a government official working for someone other than the people.

Cross-posted at Coarse Cracked Corn.


Toni D. said...

Didn't McDonnell already appoint somebody from Dominion power to his cabinet?

Robert said...

I saw a video last year where Mr. McDonnell promised to run Virginia like Bush ran the country. Sounds like he meant what he said.

Anonymous said...

Can sombody tell me where Deeds country is ?