JMU Says Bolling Will Stay Put, Despite Law

Mar 15, 2019

A new state law inspired by James Madison University’s controversial hiring of former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling will take effect July 1st.  But it’s not clear whether the law will affect that hire.  WMRA’s Andrew Jenner reports.  [WMRA's operating license is held by JMU's board of visitors.]

Last year, immediately after he finished a term on JMU’s board of visitors, Bolling took a six-figure job with the university as a Senior Fellow in Residence for Public Service. Calling that quick transition from board member to employee a conflict of interest, Harrisonburg’s Republican State Senator Mark Obenshain introduced legislation requiring at least a two-year wait between serving on a public university’s board of visitors and working for it. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and the House of Delegates by a 90-3 margin. The governor signed it on Tuesday.

In a statement, Obenshain said he was pleased the “common-sense and bipartisan ethics bill” had been signed. It also said, “In light of the admissions scandal that hit the news over the past 24 hours, the Governor is to be commended for raising the bar for ethics in the administration of Virginia’s institutions of higher education.”

Obenshain has said he wrote the legislation to apply retroactively. In other words, as of July 1, he believes JMU will no longer be allowed to employ Bolling. JMU, however, doesn’t see it that way. Here’s university spokesman Bill Wyatt.

BILL WYATT: We have no reason to believe that it’s going to affect Mr. Bolling’s contract. At the time the contract was entered into, it was executed lawfully. We are seeking the advice and counsel of the attorney general just to be sure. And certainly we would follow his guidance, whatever that may be.

Wyatt said the university is very pleased with the new position it created for Bolling, and looks forward to his work there continuing.

WYATT: His experience as a former member of the General Assembly and lieutenant governor, as a policy-maker, businessman, community leader, these are all things that our students are benefitting from. Mr. Bolling is constantly in the classroom working with students, using his contacts in Richmond to get them access to policy-makers. This is exactly what we envisioned from this position, and our students are benefitting greatly.