- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 30, 2002

Virginia Speaker of the House S. Vance Wilkins Jr., Amherst Republican, said yesterday that the accusations against Ed Matricardi, executive director of the Virginia Republican Party, are sufficient to warrant his immediate removal from the post.
"Mostly in a case like this, you have a staff person like this, you let the person go," Mr. Wilkins said. "This will speed his departure."
When asked for clarification, Mr. Wilkins said, "In this country you are innocent until proven guilty … but if he is guilty, then all of that would be the case."
Richmond's Commonwealth's Attorney David Hicks is investigating whether Mr. Matricardi illegally monitored and tape-recorded private conference calls between high-level Democrats, including Gov. Mark R. Warner, as they discussed the state's redistricting question.
Mr. Hicks declined to comment on the details of any pending case, other than to say, "This thing is out-of-the-box crazy."
Repeated calls to Mr. Matricardi's office phone, cell phone and pager were not returned.
Gary Thomson, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said he was concerned about how the fallout from this potential scandal would affect the party.
"My No. 1 job is to protect the image of the party, and I along with others are being pretty forward in this process to see if the allegations are true," said Gary R. Thomson, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.
State police officers with a warrant searched Mr. Matricardi's office at the GOP headquarters in Richmond on Wednesday, but it wasn't clear whether they confiscated any evidence. Law enforcement sources said the police had a copy of a GOP transcript of the Democratic conversations.
State Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, Fairfax Democrat, said two conference calls between top-level Democrats took place March 22 and Monday. Mr. Warner took part in the Monday conversation, Mr. Saslaw, the Senate Democratic leader, said.
Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corrine Geller would not comment on any aspect of the investigation.
"We can neither confirm nor deny any investigation is taking place," she said.
Mr. Matricardi decided several months ago that it was time for him to move on and was looking for other political opportunities in the state, Mr. Thomson said. Mr. Matricardi has held the post of executive director for three years.
"He finalized his decision in late December, and since then it has been a matter of finding out what that would be," Mr. Thomson said.
Kevin Sheridan, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said the committee had already sent out e-mail looking for a replacement for Mr. Matricardi.
Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, a Republican, was notified of possible misconduct earlier this week, spokesman Timothy Murtaugh said. Mr. Kilgore, who has been on the opposite side from the governor in the redistricting question, forewarded that information to Virginia State Police. Mr. Murtaugh declined to comment on whether Mr. Kilgore would get involved in the matter.
This story is based in part on wire service reports.


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