Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill to stop universities from hiring individuals appointed by the governor to their boards of visitors within two years of the expiration of such members’ terms.
The ethics bill, filed by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, came in response to the hiring last year of former James Madison University board member Bill Bolling to a $140,000 job reporting directly to university President Jon Alger.
Records obtained via the Freedom of Information Act showed Bolling helped create the position and helped write his own job description, requesting a contract of at least three years to boost his state pension. The records showed Bolling initially approached Alger about a job while Bolling — a Republican former state senator and lieutenant governor — was one of Alger’s bosses on the JMU Board of Visitors. Negotiation began just weeks after Bolling’s term on the board ended.
Obenshain’s bill will become law July 1. The two-year prohibition will not apply to the hiring of a university president.
The governor appoints members of university governing boards.
Obenshain said in a statement that his bill put a basic conflict-of-interest rule for colleges into law, and Northam should be commended for signing it.
“Absolutely nobody expressed any disagreement, and many thought this already was the law,” he said.