“06880” prides itself on our ability to tie nearly any story — anywhere — back to Westport.
Including the indictment earlier this week of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen. They’re charged with accepting $165,000 worth of Oscar de la Renta dresses, a Rolex watch, Louis Vuitton shoes, Cape Cod weekends, golf greens fees and cash from the head of a dietary supplement company that hoped for state aid.
The current issue of The Washingtonian has an exhaustive, 4,000-word story on Todd Schneider. He’s the governor’s former chef who blew the whistle on the fishy doings down in Richmond.
He was once so close to the first family, Maureen asked if he’d go to Washington if McDonnell became vice president.
But he chafed when Maureen sent him text messages as late as 2 a.m., ordering him to fetch “everything from liquor to tampons.” If he didn’t bring back the exact items demanded, she’d “browbeat” him, Schneider said.
“Have you ever gone and bought tampons?” he added. “There’s a million different kinds.”
Schneider also says the McDonnells’ college-age kids removed “cases and cases” of Gatorade, soda and water from the kitchen, plus “half” his pots and pans, drinking glasses with the state seal, and “boxes of unused trash bags.”
Eventually, Schneider got fired. He himself is no prize. The Washingtonian says he was charged with felony embezzlement in 2000; AP says he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge. He had more than $400,000 in state and federal tax liens.
But he catered for the stars: former governor Tim Kaine, Republican House majority leader Eric Cantor, George W. Bush’s Thanksgiving address, and the Obama presidential campaign.
So how did he end up hired for the governor’s mansion? Whether or not the staff ran a background check on him is in dispute.
The magazine story goes on and on. Bottom line: Schneider was concerned that too much “weird stuff” was going on in his kitchen, with the McDonnells and their political patron Jonnie Williams. He then took cell phone photos of anything that smelled funny.
But someone called in an anonymous tip that it was Schneider who was stealing food from the governor’s mansion. The FBI and state police woke him up one morning last year, for questioning.
The chef was fired. Soon, he handed the Virginia attorney general a stack of documents — like a check showing that Williams had paid for the governor’s daughter’s wedding, and photos of “Costco-size hauls of snacks the McDonnell kids had lifted from the mansion.”
More stuff happened to Schneider, most of it bad. The Washingtonian story goes on and on, longer almost than all the documents Edward Snowden leaked to the media.
So what does all this have to do with “06880”?
According to The Washingtonian, Schneider grew up in Westport. And he “got the ‘food bug’ while working for the catering company of his hometown celebrity, Martha Stewart.”
But — in keeping with this convoluted, contradictory tale — “a Stewart spokeswoman couldn’t confirm that Martha ever employed Schneider.” And his name rings no bells with many longtime Westporters.
Schneider has not been charged with a crime (this time). But his business has gone kaput, and his house went into foreclosure.
Sometime in the future, ex-Governor McDonnell and his wife may follow Martha Stewart to prison.
You can’t make this stuff up.
But it’s all part of “06880 — where Westport meets the world.”
(To read the entire VERY long piece in The Washingtonian, click here.)