McDonnell: OK for commerce chief to stay on boards

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Commerce Secretary-designate Robert Sledd’s refusal to step down from the boards of three large corporations presents no conflict of interest, Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell said Monday.

Sledd said in an interview last week that he would give up state pay if McDonnell would allow him to remain on the boards, including those of two major Virginia corporations. His proposal was first reported by The Roanoke Times.

In McDonnell’s cabinet after the new governor takes office Jan. 16, Sledd will oversee state agencies that regulate business and carry out business policy and attract companies to Virginia.

In his first comment on Sledd’s proposals Monday, McDonnell dismissed the possibility that Sledd’s service on the corporate boards could give those corporations unfair advantages over rivals and competitors in Virginia.

“There’s no advantage,” he told reporters. “Your question is just wrong.”

“If there is any conflict with any of those companies — two are in Virginia, one is in Louisiana — if there was anything that happened … that would create any conflict, then … somebody else would make that decision, (such as) the chief of staff,” McDonnell said.

He said he would not demand that Sledd leave the corporate boards “unless it’s something that I look on as an ongoing pattern that will imperil his ability to do his job.”

McDonnell said the trade-off is reasonable because Sledd agreed to forgo his state salary of about $150,000 a year as commerce secretary.

McDonnell said Sledd told him he would give his compensation for attending the board meetings to charities, but McDonnell said he did not know how much money it represents.

“He’s going to save me a lot of money by essentially declining a salary and he’s going to do terrific things for the community by donating money to charity, and he’s going to be able to spend 10 or 15 days a year finding out what’s going on with major companies in the private sector,” the Republican governor-elect told reporters.

Taylor Thornley, a spokeswoman for McDonnell’s transition office, said Sledd was not available Monday.

Sledd is a former chief executive of Performance Food Group, a food distribution company with revenues totaling more than $9 billion. He is currently a managing partner of Pinnacle Ventures LLC. He also is on the boards of directors of two Richmond-based corporations: Universal Corp., and Owens & Minor Co.

He was elected to the Universal Corp. board in 2009, and compensation figures for the year are not yet reflected in its proxy statements. But the company’s directors last year received an annual retainer of $40,000, a fee of $1,500 for each committee meeting attended and $2,000 for each directors’ meeting.

For service on Owens & Minor’s board, Sledd received $56,300, plus stock options and awards for year ended Dec. 31, 2008.

He also serves on the board of SCP Pool Corp. of Louisiana. The newspaper said he earned $177,270 from his service on that board last year.


AP Business Writer Michael Felberbaum contributed to this report.