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For Answers, Herring Turns to Wilder Probe 

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First the drop-dead deadline was Dec. 31; now it's April 1.

Mindful of the delay, Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Herring promises that an investigation into ancient allegations of funding improprieties by Mayor Doug Wilder's 1989 campaign for governor won't become an April Fools joke.

"It's still here — unfortunately," Herring says of the case. It involves the State Board of Elections' discovery in July 2004 that a January 1999 disclosure report and subsequent filings fail to account for about $172,000 in leftover campaign dollars.

The investigation, Herring says, continues to focus on Larry Wilder — then-campaign treasurer for his father — who was fingered by the mayor's former adviser Paul Goldman and alleged to have taken all but $3,289 of the unaccounted-for money.

"We're trying to get a look at some documents over at the [U.S.] Justice Department in connection with an investigation of the same matter seven years ago," Herring says, noting the slow grinding wheels often associated with the federal bureaucracy.

"Once we get a look at [the prior investigation], we'll be in a fully informed position on whether to seek a special prosecutor or not," he says.

Regardless of what his office uncovers, Herring says, his people will not be the ones to prosecute anything.

"If I don't see evidence of a crime, I'm probably not going to send it out to a special prosecutor to maintain appearances," Herring says. "I could care less about that."

If his office does find cause to move forward, the case is simply too much of a hot potato — considering Herring's association with the mayor — to be handled in-house.

"Let's say we adopt a posture that is inflexible, then people will be saying that you are treating Larry Wilder unfairly because of his relationship to the mayor," Herring says. "Then let's say we adopt a gesture of negotiation in this, and then other people will say we're treating Larry Wilder special because of his relationship to the mayor."

Six one way and a half-dozen the other, according to Herring, weary of hearing complaints even before they begin. S

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