VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Election day is Tuesday for all 140 seats in the General Assembly.
No seat is getting more attention than the 7th Senate District Seat in Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Part of the reason is all the commercials on WAVY-TV as the candidates blast each other. According to the most recent fundraising numbers, Senator Frank Wagner has raised $1,741,391 compared to $1,336.449 of challenger Gary McCollum who has also loaned his own campaign $220,000.
One McCollum ad attacks Wagner for “ripping off the Navy.” The ad begins with, “It says a lot about a man’s character.”
The ad is produced by McCollum’s campaign. WAVY asked Wagner about that, “That was a civil matter with the Navy from 15 years ago, and it’s long been settled,” he said.
The commercial continues, “Frank Wagner was forced to pay $400,000 [to settle a law suit accusing him of] for fraudulently billing the Navy” for work at his company.
WAVY asked Wagner about that asking him, “Did he fraudulently bill the Navy?” His answer: “I did not fraudulently bill the Navy, but it was cheaper to settle the case than to run the lawyers’ fees out on this particular lawsuit. I made a business decision in the best interest of the business. That’s why I get paid as an executive.”
Wagner sold Davis Boat Works earlier in the year. It is a ship repair company that does a lot of work with the military. Wagner was President and CEO of the company.
The commercial accuses Wagner of “altering time cards…falsified the accounting.”
He responded, “The Navy contracting officer told us to bill in the way we did. We billed the way they told me to do it, and apparently the direction they gave me was improper.”
But when they realized the problem, didn’t Wagner confront them and say, “I was doing it the way you wanted me to.”
They said, “It was out of the hands of the contracting authority and is now on the other side.” The eventual resolution led to the settlement.
The commercial continues, “Wagner used his political clout to prevent the people of Virginia from getting the facts.” On that point Wagner disagrees, “That’s wrong.”
10 On Your Side tried to interview McCollum about his own commercial before and after a debate he had with Wagner. He refused on three occasions to talk with us about the ad, the charges, the tone.
However, on Friday afternoon the campaign sent WAVY the following email:
This terrible incident tells you everything you need to know about Frank Wagner’s character. Wagner fraudulently billed a branch of our armed services at taxpayer expense What’s worse, Wagner tried to cover up the lawsuit by having the details permanently sealed, prompting the Virginian-Pilot to say, quote, ‘we seriously question Wagner’s judgment on this matter.’ 24 years in Richmond is long enough.
– McCollum Campaign Manager Molly Ritner.
Wagner says the events took place 15 years ago, and the Navy kept working with his shipyard, “The Navy has awarded over $100 million worth of work to me, awarded new five-year contracts over and over, so obviously the Navy didn’t have any problem with the…ship repair work we were doing, and continue to this day to do business with Davis Boat Works.”