- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2002

RICHMOND (AP) Republicans in the House of Delegates want to spend about $6,000 in public funds on a portrait of former House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr., who resigned in June over charges of sexual misconduct.
Republican lawmakers said there is a time-honored tradition of honoring former speakers with a portrait that hangs behind the speaker's rostrum in the House chamber of the state Capitol.
"Although the circumstances of his leaving were unfortunate, I believe he accomplished a lot as speaker," said Delegate Jeannemarie A. Devolites of Fairfax County, a House Republican leader. "He was very loyal to the job."
Democratic leaders said they respect the tradition of commissioning a portrait, but private funds should pay for Mr. Wilkins' picture.
"If Republicans are adamant to honor him with a portrait, they should chip in and pay for it themselves," said Delegate Brian J. Moran of Alexandria, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "It's an inappropriate use of taxpayer money, considering the cloud over his departure."
The Washington Post reported last June that Mr. Wilkins, 66, paid about $100,000 to a 26-year-old Amherst County woman last year to settle her complaint that he sexually assaulted her.
Mr. Wilkins, a longtime Amherst County delegate who became speaker in January 2000, denied any sexual misconduct but acknowledged the settlement and resigned under pressure from fellow Republicans.
Nearly 50 Republican delegates have signed on as co-sponsors of the House resolution supporting the portrait, as have two rural Democrats, according to House Clerk Bruce F. Jamerson. State Senate approval is not needed.
"It really is a small item, a reasonable price," said House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, Salem Republican and the resolution's chief sponsor. Mr. Wilkins "did a nice job as speaker. It wasn't like he was convicted of a criminal violation. While there were certainly some questions, we don't have all the facts."
State Democratic Party Chairman Lawrence H. Framme III agreed with Mr. Moran that Republican lawmakers in the state House and Senate should cover the portrait's cost.
"If each Republican member of the legislature contributed $68.18, the $6,000 portrait would be paid for. This is better than the taxpayers paying to paint a portrait of a man who resigned in disgrace," said Mr. Framme.

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