Another Grasping Opportunist
James Madison University has grown. Physically and academically.
From its modest 150-student start as the State Normal School For Women in 1908 to the almost 20,000-student university it is today, Virginians can be proud of this fine institution in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley.
Let me correct that: We can be proud of the academics, but we ought to be outraged by its recent ethical lapse.
JMU is not only home to a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, but it’s become the new home of political grubbery.
You may have missed it - The Virginian-Pilot ran just a seven-sentence AP story on the scandal - JMU president Jon Alger offered former two-term Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling a vague job at the school at a salary of $140,000 and with a three-year contract. A position, “senior fellow in residence for public service,” that appeared to be tailored for the politician. Heck , Bolling helped write parts of his own job description and the job wasn’t offered to the public, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Oh, and that three-year contract?
Precisely the amount of time needed for Bolling to fatten his pension in the Virginia Retirement System. Pensions are based on a retiree’s highest salary for three years. As lieutenant governor, the Republican earned less than $40K. This job, which started October 1, should plump up those monthly checks.
Bolling is 61. Planning for the future, I guess. And taxpayers get to pick up the tab for his comfortable retirement.
In an explosive story in The Richmond Times-Dispatch, former Virginian-Pilot reporter Patrick Wilson exposed this sweetheart deal. Read every word of this story.
And it gets worse.
Turns out, Bolling wrapped up a four-year term on the JMU Board of Visitors in June. Through FOIA requests, Wilson learned that within 16 days of his leaving the board, Bolling was meeting with Alger about the job. Not only did Bolling negotiate a fat salary for himself - almost four times the average per capita income in Virginia - but he got a “signing bonus” of more than $18,000 to cover his first year’s rent in Harrisonburg.
Good thing the Board hiked tuition this year.
I know what you’re thinking. There ought to be a law to prevent this sort of chicanery.
If Sen. Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg gets his way, there will be. He’s introduced a measure for the upcoming General Assembly session that would outlaw arrangements like this one.
SB1068 reads: “No baccalaureate public institution of higher education shall employ an individual appointed by the Governor to the board of visitors of such institution within four years of the expiration of his term.”
Oh, and here’s the money quote from Wilson’s terrific investigative piece:
“As governor, (Terry) McAuliffe in 2014 appointed Bolling and former U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-9th, to lead an ethics commission, the Commission on Integrity and Public Confidence in State Government, in the wake of the gifts scandal that nearly landed McDonnell in federal prison.”
Ethics commission? Bolling looks like just another greedy, grasping government opportunist.
JMU gave him a soft place to land.