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Report of Gov. Wilder Nepotism Effort Called 'Nothing Unusual'

December 26, 1992|JOHN F. HARRIS | THE WASHINGTON POST

RICHMOND, Va. — A spokesman for the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said this week that he knows of "nothing unusual" about the hiring of Gov. L. Douglas Wilder's goddaughter as a deputy director of the agency.

The selection of Rita R. Henderson drew scrutiny after a report in the Charlottesville Daily Progress said she got the job at Wilder's insistence. A written offer to another applicant was withdrawn, the newspaper said.

Thomas L. Weedon, spokesman for the liquor agency, said he had no knowledge of "anything being out of the ordinary" in Henderson's selection. "I'm not aware of any complaints," he said.

Liquor Board Chairman George Hampton could not be reached for comment. The department's three deputy directors officially are hired by the board, but its top staff positions often have been used as patronage plums by governors.

The Daily Progress quoted two unidentified state officials as saying Henderson had applied for a job running the liquor agency's personnel division but was hired for a more senior, higher-paying post after Wilder revoked a written offer to another applicant.

Glenn Davidson, the governor's press secretary, has not returned phone calls seeking comment on Henderson's qualifications and any role Wilder may have had in her hiring. Henderson did not return a reporter's phone calls.

Henderson is the sister of Arnold Henderson Jr., a lawyer in Wilder's former Richmond law firm, Wilder & Gregory.

Her new job involves a large leap in pay and responsibility. She now supervises four divisions with more than 200 employees at an annual salary of $52,408, Weedon said.

Henderson previously was paid $24,000 a year as an educator at the Department of Health, working at the Medical College of Virginia here.

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