House Democratic Leader urges Cuccinelli to appoint separate counsel in Star Scientific Case

from Ashley Bauman
Democratic Party of Virginia

March 29, 2013, Charlottesville, VA — Today House Democratic Leader David Toscano sent the following letter to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli urging him to recuse himself and his office and appoint outside counsel in Virginia’s case against Star Scientific, a company in which Cuccinelli is invested and from whose CEO he has received $13,000 in gifts. Star Scientific owes Virginia $700,000 in taxes and sued the state in 2011 over the matter.

Last week an Associated Press report revealed that case has lain dormant since August of 2011 and questioned whether Cuccinelli’s apparent conflict of interest with the company has played a role in his office’s slow handling of the matter. Today Toscano called on Cuccinelli to do away with the perception of impropriety and recuse himself and his office from the case.

The text of the letter he sent is below:

Dear General Cuccinelli,

As you know, last week the Associated Press reported on a troubling issue regarding your office’s handling of a tax dispute with a company in which you are invested and with whose CEO you seem to be close friends. According to that report, Star Scientific may owe Virginia taxpayers as much as $700,000 and has sued the Commonwealth over that bill. The case to resolve that claim is being handled by your office, but it seems to have sat dormant since August of 2011.

The length of time that has passed without any action on a case at which hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake is cause for concern in and of itself, but this instance is particularly troubling due to your close personal relationship to this company and its CEO Jonnie Williams. As the Associated Press reported, Williams’ company is the only company in which you hold stock, and you received $13,000 in gifts from Williams in 2011, the same year that Williams sued the Commonwealth of Virginia and your office began to represent taxpayers in that case.

It should come as no surprise that many Virginians, myself included, view your office’s handling of a case against a company with which you have this type of relationship as an inexcusable conflict of interest. That is why I am writing today to urge you to recuse yourself and the Office of the Attorney General from any further proceedings involving Star Scientific and to appoint outside special counsel to represent Virginians in this matter.

Your office has publicly sought to downplay any discussion of a potential conflict of interest in the handling of this case. However, even if the abnormally slow response to this case has nothing to do with your relationship with Star Scientific and Jonnie Williams, appointing outside counsel to pursue this case will give Virginians the confidence they deserve that you and your staff are dedicated to protecting our Commonwealth’s sterling reputation for transparency and accountability.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter, I hope you will act swiftly to do away with even the appearance of impropriety so that this case can move forward and Virginia taxpayers can see this matter resolved properly.

Delegate David Toscano
House Democratic Leader

Update: The Washington Post published an article on this topic March 30th.

Author: Sarah Williams

website manager.

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