Virginia Gov. Charles S. Robb said today he had ordered a sweeping review of the state's conflict-of-interest laws following disclosures that some of the state's mining inspectors owned stock in coal companies.
Atlhough the state's ethics law was rewritten this year, the Democratic governor said, "We're going to have to make additional progress. . . It's clear that more needs to be done."
As part of the review, Robb is considering tightening the law on his own -- either by executive order or by changes in personnel rules -- without waiting for the legislature to act next year. The office of Attorney General Gerald L. Baliles has been asked to review what options are available to the governor and is expected to report back within a few days, administration officials said today.
"We are looking at a number of areas that all indicate potential for conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict or impropriety in the context of state business," Robb said. "Within the next few weeks, we expect to make some announcement that hasn't been discussed publicly to date."
Robb's review comes after The Washington Post reported two weeks ago that Chief Mine Inspector Harry D. Childress, who heads the state agency responsible for enforcing state mine safety laws, owned nearly $19,000 in stock in the Pittston Co., the state's largest coal company and owner of the mine that exploded June 21, killing seven miners. After the disclosure, Childress sold his stock and was removed from the state's investigation into the mine explosion.
A Robb-ordered investigation into the state Division of Mines then found two other coal inspectors who owned stock in the Westmoreland Coal Co. and an oil inspector who owned stock in an oil-drilling firm.