Sen. Thomas K. "Tommy" Norment and the Attorney General's office have both released the opinion that Norment sought before agreeing to go to work at the College of William and Mary.
Norment joined the school in the summer of 2008 in a hybrid position where he would teacher law students and undergraduates and also provide legal advice to William and Mary President Taylor Reveley.
But before he took the $160,000-a-year spot, Norment went to then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell to ask if he would be violating the state's conflict of interest rules.
McDonnell's gubernatorial campaign initially refused to release the opinion - citing attorney client privilege - but now Norment has opted to break that privilege and release the full opinion. Here is a portion of Norment's statement.
“Although the opinion concludes that my employment at the College does not present a conflict of interest, news accounts referencing the opinion and citing my reluctance to release it have resulted in a situation markedly similar to one it advised me to avoid. As the ‘client’ in this matter, it is my right to break attorney-client privilege. Accordingly, I am releasing today my letter to then-Chief Deputy Attorney General William C. Mims seeking an opinion and the advisory opinion I subsequently received from then-Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell."
The following link includes Norment's letter to Mims and McDonnell's letter back to Norment, a James City Republican and longtime advocate for the university. The details add at least some more information to the brewing territorial dispute between William and Mary and the Attorney General's office.
William and Mary is the only state supported university in Virginia that has staff lawyers who do not report directly to the AG's office. Even W&M President Reveley acknowledges that the Attorney General would probably prefer that the three internal lawyers - two full-time including Norment and one part-time - be deputized by the state's top lawyer.
Norment said in his initial letter to Mims that "at no time will I assume a relationship of "attorney-client" that would result in the exercising of any attorney client privilege or any work privilege."
But Norment's statement appears to be at odds with the way that the top officials at W&M view the relationship. Consider this from W&M spokesman Brian Whitson earlier this week.
"William & Mary has also had inside lawyers of its own for many years. The university regards all advice it has gotten from these lawyers as privileged and will continue to do so. We believe our view of this is well rooted in the law."
So here's the opinion. Download NormentAGopinion
Further, the opinion specifically tells Norment to avoid any and all votes on William and Mary, but just last year Norment sponsored budget amendments for nearly $20 million-worth of state spending on the William and Mary campus.
Click here to look at the budget amendments for W&M that Norment put in this year. Just click on Senate and then click on Norment's name.
This elaborate legal dance continues to grow more and more complex - and that's not even to mention Norment's lingering ties to Norfolk-based Kaufman and Canoles, a legal behemoth where he remains tied in a limited "of counsel" capacity.
Read on legal minds - what the heck is going on here?