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Updated: House releases Hamilton report. Sort of.

Anita Kumar

In recent days, the House of Delegates has come under criticism for failing to complete and disclose the conflict-of-interest inquiry into Phil Hamilton, the once powerful Republican lawmaker now under federal investigation.

In direct response, House Speaker Bill Howell (R-Stafford) "voluntarily" released today the report of the House Ethics Advisory Panel.

The only problem? There is no report.

The five-member House Ethics Advisory Panel, led by Judge William Sweeney, did not turn over the testimony or documents it collected before it halted the investigation after Hamilton resigned last week .

Howell's office says that even the Speaker and his staff do not have access to the confidential information collect by the ethics panel.

Instead, Howell released the letters in which he called for the investigation and encouraged the panel to complete its inquiry as soon as possible and not take the full 120 days alloted to them (which would have come after the election).

"In the interest of full disclosure and public transparency, I am voluntarily sharing today with all Virginians the Ethics Panel's recent report regarding former Delegate Hamilton,'' Howell wrote in a statement. "While I regret that their fact-finding inquiry did not reach a final conclusion whether an actual violation of state law occurred, I understand the decision by the Ethics Panel and respect them for not wanting to operate outside of the legal authority granted by the Code of Virginia."

Howell also said in his statement that he will examine how legislative ethics inquiries are conducted when the General Assembly reconvenes for its 60-day session in January. "Exploring opportunities to modify or improve the current process is consistent with my duties as Speaker to protect and uphold the institutional integrity of the House of Delegates,'' he said.

House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong said today that the entire investigative process should be public and that members should continue to be investigated even after they resign. He said he and Democrats will push for both those changes during session.

Hamilton, who was a budget negotiator and vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is under investigation for negotiating a job offer with Old Dominion University before securing state money for the school.

A federal grand jury served the Newport News school system, ODU and the House with subpoenas and search warrants.

House Clerk Bruce Jamerson said last week that he received a subpoena for Hamilton's economic interest forms, travel vouchers and documents relating to the ODU teaching center where Hamilton secured a job.

Hamilton of Newport News lost his bid for re-election to Democrat Robin Abbott after serving in the House for 21 years. He resigned from the House of Delegates Nov. 15.

Sweeney wrote to Howell Nov. 16 saying the panel no longer has jurisdication over the inquiry since Hamilton was not a member.

Read the Howell letter that launched the inquiry here.

Read the letter Howell sent Sweeney asking him to complete the inquiry as soon as possible here.

Read the letter Sweeney sent to Howell ending the inquiry here.

By Anita Kumar  |  November 24, 2009; 12:01 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Election 2009 , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates  
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