With the December weather icily projecting itself under foot, Bryan Williams’ problems as a State Board of Education member attracted more heat Sunday, this time from the normally Republican-friendly Columbus Dispatch.
Here’s how a staff-written news story began:
“A state school-board member apparently is the law by lobbying the legislature and other state agencies at the same time he holds his elected post.”
As an aggressive lobbyist in behalf of his client, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Ohio, the Dispatch reported he’s applied his talent to attempting to influence a dozen bills, “including the $60 billion-plus state budget and an education bill on post secondary enrollment.”
I should pause here to report earlier notices that his client runs a private charter school .
Now comes the bounce for Williams’ work. Paul M. Nick, executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission, told the paper:
“The Ethics Laws prohibit an elected member of a state board or commission from receiving compensation for services he or she performs personally on a matter that is before any state agency.” Without exception!
And if violated, it is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Williams is a well-known political activist and insider of the Summit County Republican Party. He’s run unsuccessfully for Akron mayor, served in the legislature and as director of the county board of elections – never at a loss for something to do politically. He was appointed to the state education board by Gov. Kasich and later elected to the seat.
The Dispatch noted that Williams didn’t respond to attempts to contact him. But it did quote something that Williams told the Beacon Journal in its lengthy reports on the state education agency. Williams then said conflicts are inevitable, adding: “There’s no way around it. People are to gravitate to the position that they have interest in.”
But wasn’t such interest supposed to be public education?