McDonnell Testimony Reveals Inner Workings of UVa Board of Visitors

August 27, 2014

Bob McDonnell testified he could say no to donors and used University of Virginia Vice Rector William Goodwin Jr. as an example.

On the witness stand in his federal corruption trial Tuesday, the former governor told the jury Goodwin sent him a letter in March of 2012, asking him to reappoint his son-in-law, Robert Hardie, to the UVa Board of Visitors.

McDonnell testified he rejected the request because he didn't think Hardie's views on higher education were consistent with the direction he wanted the board to move. This nugget is important to McDonnell's defense because Goodwin toed the line as friend and donor to McDonnell, similar to how McDonnell viewed Johnnie Williams, according to his defense.

In May of 2012, Goodwin paid $23,000 for the McDonnell family to vacation on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. That same year he donated his Keswick cabin for the governor to use for a political retreat.

On a draft of McDonnell's Statement of Economic Interests, staffers listed both of those gifts, but prosecutors showed another version, with the Kiawah trip crossed out in pen. McDonnell said he made the change because he considered the trip a personal gift and didn't need to disclose it. He testified the $920 cabin retreat was business-related so it needed to stay on the form.

On the witness stand, McDonnell said he considered Goodwin to be a close, family friend. But when pressed by Prosecutor Michael Dry, McDonnell could not remember the names of any of Goodwin's children and backtracked, saying they had been for five years, not ten, as previously stated.

After the June 2012 ouster UVa President Teresa Sullivan, McDonnell testified he told the Board of Visitors to work together to fix things or he would "fire everyone". He testified he asked Goodwin to do him a personal favor by serving as a nonvoting senior advisor to the board "to get things back on track". Goodwin previously served on the board from 1996 to 2004. McDonnell said it was "awkward" because had denied his request to reappoint his son-in-law earlier in the year, but after two or three phone calls, Goodwin agreed.

After the resignation of another board member in the fall of 2012, McDonnell appointed Goodwin to fill the position. In May of the next year, the board elected Goodwin to serve as its vice rector. In 2015 Goodwin will beginning his two-year term as rector.

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