A witness in the federal corruption trial against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his wife testified Wednesday that he recommended the governor move the potentially depressed first lady out of the Executive Mansion in order to alleviate tensions with disgruntled staff.
The Washington Post reported that James Burke, director of the Performance Management Group at Virginia Commonwealth University, came in as a consultant in 2012 to manage what had become a chaotic governor’s mansion. Given the discord between the governor’s wife Maureen and mansion staff, Burke testified that he and another consultant recommended in a personal meeting with the governor that the first lady move back to her private residence.
The management consultant also raised concerns in the meeting about the impact of the first lady’s anxiety on mansion staff, according to the Post. Burke testified that he thought Maureen McDonnell was suffering from “possibly depression” and suggested she receive counseling. The governor was not receptive to that recommendation, he said.
Other witnesses in the trial so far have testified about the strained relationship between Maureen McDonnell and mansion staff. The entire staff wrote a letter to the first lady in January 2012 that threatened to resign en masse unless the situation was remedied, but they were intercepted before they could deliver it.
Burke said in his testimony that he opposed staffers’ desire to bring a second letter of complaint straight to the governor himself.
“Our goal was to let the governor govern,” he testified, as quoted by the Post. “We wanted them to contain the drama and to go back to business as usual.”
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.