- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

RICHMOND | Virginia’s House speaker on Monday called for an ethics investigation into an influential fellow Republican who pursued a job at a new teaching center before securing money to create it.

Speaker William J. Howell asked the House Ethics Advisory Panel to investigate whether Delegate Phillip A. Hamilton violated laws concerning conflicts of interest when he asked for a job at the Old Dominion University center a few months before using his position as a budget negotiator to direct $500,000 toward its creation in 2007.

Mr. Howell said he hoped the independent ethics panel would conclude its work “as thoroughly and expeditiously as possible.”

“As speaker, I believe in faithfully and impartially discharging my duties and in protecting the integrity of the entire House of Delegates,” Mr. Howell said in a prepared statement. “The seriousness with which I view this matter dictates determining the facts and finding out if any impropriety occurred.”

Mr. Hamilton, of Newport News, is one of the legislature’s most influential members as one of a small number of legislators who largely determine how billions of state money is spent. He did not immediately return calls or e-mails to his district and legislative offices for comment.

Mr. Hamilton and the university severed ties Thursday after e-mails discovered through a Freedom of Information Act request by two newspapers showed that Mr. Hamilton had discussions about a job with Old Dominion officials at least five months before he put in a budget amendment to fund the Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership.

Mr. Hamilton has been paid $40,000 a year as an independent contractor for the center since it opened in 2007.

Before the e-mails surfaced, Mr. Hamilton had denied discussing a possible position at the center before steering money its way.

A number of statewide Democratic candidates have called for him to resign.

“For the past seven years, Virginians from all walks of life have worked hard to earn our ranking as the best managed state in the nation,” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. R. Creigh Deeds said Monday. “Phil Hamilton’s actions and subsequent denials not only undermine that effort, but more importantly, betray the public trust.”

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