Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Ethics panel kills complaint against Senate leader's wife

By Joe Biesk
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - The Legislative Ethics Commission dismissed an ethics complaint against Senate President David Williams' wife Tuesday, saying it did not find evidence she intentionally skirted lobbyist registration laws.

The commission found Robyn Edmonds Williams did not intentionally fail to register as a legislative lobbyist and dismissed the case. However, she must pay an administrative fine of $250 for her late registration, said Anthony Wilhoit, executive director of the Legislative Ethics Commission.

"The commission concludes that there is not probable cause," according to the commission's order.

Robyn Williams, who was a first-time lobbyist, had registered as an executive-branch lobbyist in February. She registered as a lobbyist of the General Assembly in March, after the commission's executive director told her she was required to do so.

The commission's decision avoids a full-blown hearing on the matter, Wilhoit said.

Robyn Williams declined to speak with reporters after the commission's ruling.

Her husband, who represented her before the commission, said the complaint was unsubstantiated and politically motivated.

"We never believed there was any validity to the complaint," David Williams said. "I believe the complaint was politically motivated by Rep. Stein in an attempt to try to tarnish me or to embarrass me or a member of my family."

Rep. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, filed the complaint with the commission. Stein, a lawyer, said the complaint was not politically motivated. The complaint needed to be filed and was not personal, she said.

"David Williams is a powerful member of the General Assembly," Stein said. "Based upon that, I think it was his duty as well as his wife's duty to make sure that every 'i' was dotted and every 't' was crossed."

Williams has said he didn't use his leadership position to lobby colleagues, nor did he make official moves to advance the legislation his wife was pushing.

But Richard Beliles, state chairman of Common Cause of Kentucky, disagreed.

Being Senate president gives Williams influence over colleagues, Beliles said. Among his other legislative powers, Williams holds positions of authority on the Senate Rules Committee and the Committee on Committees, Beliles said.

"People would have to be naive to think that, even if he doesn't vote upon the floor, that he hasn't had some influence on the entire process," he said.

Independence among lawmakers is threatened by allowing special interests to pay legislators' family members, he said.

Robyn Williams, of Russell Springs, registered to lobby legislators on behalf of three different clients. Her clients included UST Public Affairs Inc., Clark Distributing Inc. of Bowling Green and the Small Manufacturers Allied for the Reasonable Treatment of Tobacco.

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