RICHMOND — The woman who ran the governor's mansion under Bob McDonnell testified Thursday that the governor and his wife appeared to be a happy couple but acknowledged telling investigators that the former first couple seemed to lack healthy communication skills.
Sarah Scarbrough, a close friend of the McDonnells' daughter, who served as mansion director for much of the governor's four-year term, said at the trial of Bob and Maureen McDonnell that the pair "seemed like a very happy, in-love couple" from her perspective inside the mansion.
Her testimony undercuts an argument by the defense that the marriage had deteriorated to the point that the couple rarely communicated, much less engaged in a criminal conspiracy.
The McDonnells are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and secret loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie R. Williams Sr. in exchange for promoting his dietary supplement products.
Under cross-examination from the former governor's attorney, though, Ms. Scarbrough acknowledged telling investigators that the marriage seemed to lack healthy communications and describing Mrs. McDonnell as "sneaky" and frequently yelling at staff.
Ms. Scarbrough's testimony comes a day after another former staffer of Mrs. McDonnell's, Mary-Shea Sutherland, acknowledged describing Mrs. McDonnell as a "nutbag" who excitedly accepted the gifts that Williams lavished on her.
Ms. Scarbrough also testified about an August 2011 reception held at the governor's mansion to launch Star Scientific's new product, Anatabloc. Ms. Scarbrough said Mrs. McDonnell was the impetus behind the reception and that it was unusual to use the mansion, operated under state funds, to launch a product for a private company.
Under cross-examination, though, Ms. Scarbrough acknowledged that several receptions were held at the mansion over the years that specifically catered to private firms, including a dinner reception with Volkswagen, which has its U.S. headquarters in Virginia, the New York Stock Exchange and Forbes magazine.
Ms. Scarbrough testified that when law enforcement eventually interviewed Mrs. McDonnell in February 2013 pertaining to the corruption investigation, she emerged from the long interview at the mansion angry and saying "that they were interrogating her and it wasn't fair and they were trying to set her up."