A former Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates set up a plum position for himself at Old Dominion University — a job he funded through legislation he introduced at the same time he was soliciting the gig, a federal grand jury charged in an indictment on Wednesday.
The scandal all started brewing back in 2007, when a bill Phillip A. Hamilton pushed through to give $500,000 per year to the Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership at ODU, a program intended to train teachers for success in urban school environments. Just a day after the legislation passed, Phillip A. Hamilton and ODU officials exchanged e-mails about Hamilton getting the director job at $40,000 a year (supplementing his income as a legislator), the feds say.
The job was publicly posted and three people other than Hamilton applied, but none of them were interviewed. Hamilton never even submitted an application. The relationship was first reported by the Virginian-Pilot in 2009. His relationship with ODU became an issue in his 2009 re-election campaign, in which he was defeated by Democrat Robin Abbott.
Hamilton first floated the idea of a quid pro quo an e-mail in December 2006, according to the indictment.
Once the legislation passed, they had this e-mail exchange:
The indictment also alleges that Hamilton took a number of steps to conceal his arrangement with Old Dominion University. According to a DOJ press release, he told ODU officials “not to mention his name in connection with the center to members of the Virginia Senate Finance Committee; allegedly advising an ODU official to tell a Virginia senate staffer that the official, and not Hamilton, was the director of the center; and, unsuccessfully attempting to persuade ODU leadership not to release incriminating e-mails in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that ODU had received.”
“Hamilton purposely kept ODU’s name out of the amendment so that it would be assigned to the Elementary & Secondary Education Subcommittee, on which Hamilton served. Had Hamilton’s amendment mentioned a university or specified matters dealing with higher education, it would have been assigned to the Higher Education Subcommittee, on which Hamilton did not serve.”
Hamilton’s name came up in Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign in 2009, but the now-AG refused to call for Hamilton to resign. “Delegate Phil Hamilton’s future is in the hands of the voters of Newport News and Phil Hamilton,” Cuccinelli spokesman Chris LaCivita said at the time.
[Ed. note: This story was updated after publication]