Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said Friday that he will consider whether any ethics laws need to be changed after former delegate Phillip A. Hamilton’s conviction this week for bribery and extortion.
“Obviously it’s a very sad day for the Hamilton family and it’s the kind of conduct that we cannot ever accept in the body politic in a Virginia democray where we pride ourselves in clean and honest and ethical government among all the political parties,” McDonnell said in conference call with reporters from Beijing.
Hamilton, 59, faces up to 30 years for soliciting a job at Norfolk’s Old Dominion University after obtaining state funding for the school. He remains free on bond until the Aug. 12 sentencing hearing.
“Obviously when a member of the House of Delegates, especially someone who served well for 20 years, is convicted of a crime that causes us all to pause and consider what we should do differently to improve our laws,’’ McDonnell said. “So we will evaluate in light of what’s happened if there is a need for further reform in the laws. We did make some progress in the last couple years but it is a certainly a rare event in Virginia democracy when a legislator betrays the public trust and is convicted of a crime.”
Hamilton’s case prompted a flurry of laws to strengthen state ethics rules, but many of them would not have prevented his crime.
A federal jury took four hours to convict Hamilton, who had been hired as part-time director of the Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership after arranging for taxpayer money to help launch the facility, which trained urban school teachers. He was paid about $80,000 between 2007 and 2009.
Hamilton had tried to hide the relationship by asking an ODU official to falsely say that he was the center’s director instead of Hamilton, unsuccessfully attempting to persuade school officials not to release incriminating e-mails in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and telling ODU officials not to mention his name in connection with the center to legislative staff.
A 21-year Republican veteran from Newport News, who was vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Hamilton had been one of the most influential members of the House before he was defeated in 2009 after news of the federal investigation became public. He also resigned from the now-defunct center.