(AP) — A clerical error by former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration has essentially voided about 60 gubernatorial appointments made by McDonnell to various state boards and commissions, according to Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office.
A spokeswoman for the new governor said McDonnell’s office forgot to forward the appointments to the General Assembly for confirmation. Without legislative approval, the McAuliffe administration said it considers those board seats vacant, according to a letter sent to at least one appointee.
McAuliffe’s office has encouraged those appointees to reapply, but has not guaranteed that they will be reappointed.
“Our office will be evaluating all of these board seats in the near future,” McAuliffe’s Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney said in a letter to one McDonnell appointee. “Please let us know if you are still interested in serving on this or any other board or commission.”
But the McAuliffe administration’s interpretation of Virginia law appears to be at odds with a 1983 opinion by the state attorney general’s office, which held that gubernatorial appointees have to be actively rejected by the General Assembly in order for those appointments to be vacated.
House Republicans also appear to disagree with the McAuliffe administration’s interpretation of state law. During the last session they took specific steps to vote down a McAuliffe appointee in order to make clear that the General Assembly was rejecting the pick.
A spokesman for Republican House Speaker William J. Howell said the speaker’s office is currently reviewing McAuliffe’s actions on the vacated McDonnell appointments “to determine what, if any, action should be taken.”
But McAuliffe spokeswoman Jamie Radice disputes that there is a potential disagreement.
“The administration has not taken a position on the appointments,” Radice said. “However, in light of the clerical error from the previous administration, we are asking for those individuals to reapply to ensure that the process is properly conducted.”
There are 28 affected boards and commissions, according to a list provided by a former McDonnell administration official. They include the Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice, the Tourism Board, the Virginia Housing Development Authority and the Virginia Sheep Industry Board.
One McDonnell appointee to the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority, Douglas L. Faulkner, said he was told Thursday that his appointment was going to be resubmitted by the current governor.
There are about 4,000 spots on various state boards and commissions. In a state where governors are limited to serving one consecutive term, appointments to these spots are a way of extending their influence over state government once out of office.
In general, the General Assembly confirms gubernatorial picks with little fuss.
The exception this year was former GOP operative Boyd Marcus, who McAuliffe had appointed as chairman of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Unlike most boards, that spot paid $130,000 a year and is widely viewed as a prime political patronage position.
Republicans opposed Marcus’ appointment because they said it appeared to be payback for his endorsing McAuliffe’s candidacy last year, a charge both the governor and Marcus denied.
– ALAN SUDERMAN, Associated Press