Ethics Bill Prompted by JMU Hire Advances (Again)

Jan 25, 2019

An ethics bill prompted by James Madison University’s hiring of former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling just after he’d completed a term on the university’s board of visitors took one step closer to becoming law Thursday in Richmond.  WMRA's Andrew Jenner reports.  *UPDATE Tues. Jan. 29...

*The bill, SB1068, passed the Senate unanimously (40-0) on Tuesday (Jan. 29).  It now moves to the House of Delegates.

Note: WMRA's operating license is held by JMU's board of visitors.

To State Senator Mark Obenshain, a Republican from Harrisonburg, Bolling’s direct move from the JMU Board of Visitors to a JMU employee was a conflict of interest. And so, Obenshain introduced a bill that would mandate a waiting period before any public university in Virginia could hire a former board member. On Thursday, he presented it to the Senate Education and Health Committee.

SEN. MARK OBENSHAIN: The nature of conflicts of interest are just really such that they’re so difficult to ferret out and so unpleasant to have to inquire into the motivation behind a quo as to whether it’s been given for a quid that we just draw the line somewhere. All this bill really represents is drawing the line.

No one else spoke for or against the bill. Obenshain noted, however, that he’d just met with the JMU Student Government Association.

OBENSHAIN: I certainly think that students and student governments ought to be heard on important issues. This is at the top of their list of bills that they support.

The bill advanced out of committee on a unanimous 15-0 vote, with two amendments. The most significant reduced the waiting period for a university to hire a former board member from four to two years. The measure will now head to a full senate vote. When Obenshain’s bill was introduced, JMU spokesman Bill Wyatt said that Bolling had the full support of the university. Wyatt declined additional comment yesterday after the committee vote.