Dear William & Mary Faculty and Staff,
Recently, there have been a couple of media accounts about Senator Tommy Norment's employment at William & Mary. Let me share my perspective on this matter.
I made the decision to employ Senator Norment at William & Mary. It was not a hasty decision, nor one made without getting advice and thinking carefully.
The Senator first talked with me in spring 2008 about joining the university. Our conversation turned to teaching and to legal work. The prospect of his teaching law students and undergraduates about how the legislative process works had serious appeal, since he knows this process so well. Even more useful was the prospect of adding his legal counsel to that available to the university. Having a lawyer of Tommy Norment's caliber and his experience in private practice working on William & Mary's legal issues was an extremely engaging prospect.
As a former practicing lawyer, I am acutely aware of the numerous legal issues facing universities these days. I have become increasingly concerned about how few on-campus resources we have keeping us afloat amid these issues. As the range and complexity of the legal issues arising on campuses have grown, it has become crucial that these issues receive comprehensive, timely attention. To this end, we have on-campus lawyers to supplement the work done for us by lawyers from the office of the state's Attorney General, with which the university has an attorney-client relationship. Before Senator Norment joined us, we had only one full-time Coordinator of Legal Affairs and one part-time Assistant to the Provost for Legal Affairs (focusing on disciplinary matters). We have badly needed more inside legal help.
The work Senator Norment does as a William & Mary employee is substantive and demanding. His employment here is not a Potemkin village. His work involves both teaching and legal advice. His teaching has been extensive and successful. From the beginning of his time at William & Mary, the Senator has provided me with legal counsel. He continues to do so while also now working closely with our Coordinator of Legal Affairs.
Tommy Norment's compensation reflects his status as an experienced lawyer coming from private practice. It is less than would be expected for someone of his seniority and ability in private practice or the corporate world. It makes sense for a university, however, and is consistent with how we compensate our other lawyers.
No "quid pro quo" was involved in Senator Norment's and my conversations about the possibility of his joining William & Mary. The Senator did not offer to do anything for William & Mary in return for employment. Nor did I premise the possibility of his employment here on his doing anything for the university in the future.
Senator Norment has been a friend of higher education in Virginia generally, and William & Mary in particular, for many years. I was confident, and remain confident, that his interest in higher education and the university will continue whether he works here or not. In addition to rules and regulations governing conflicts of interest, there is the matter of public perception of conflict even if, in fact, none exists. The Senator and I are very sensitive to the appearance of conflict as well as its reality. We are vigilant on this score.