(Columbia) February 17, 2006 - Hamilton Osborne, Jr. released the following statement on Friday:
For nearly sixteen years, it has been my privilege to represent the residents of District 4 in Columbia as their representative on Columbia City Council. I have enjoyed the experience, and I am pleased to have been a part of the growth and development of our City. I had also hoped to be re-elected in the election on April 4 so that I could serve my constituents for another term.
This week, however, I was informed of an opinion issued by the State Ethics Commission on January 18, 2006, that compels me to change my plans. In that opinion (No. AO2006-002), the Commission concluded that "a city council member's firm may not appear before various city approval and permitting boards."
The opinion withdraws a prior opinion of the State Ethics Commission and modifies the Commission's previous interpretation of a state statute governing the conduct of a firm that employs a member of a city council. The new interpretation imposes greater restrictions on all employees of such a firm.
My law firm, Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A., has commitments to clients that will require members of the firm to appear before Columbia City Council and various approval and permitting boards of the city in the near future. The recent opinion of the State Ethics Commission will preclude the firm from fulfilling these commitments so long as I remain a member of Columbia City Council. In the past, I have refrained from participating in any matter before Columbia City Council in which my firm represented clients. The recent opinion of the State Ethics Commission no longer allows such a procedure. Consequently, other members of the firm would now be prevented from representing clients before the City Council or approval and permitting boards of the city even if I do not participate.
Upon learning of this new opinion, I immediately informed my colleagues in the firm. After careful deliberation, we have concluded that the state statute as now interpreted by the State Ethics Commission creates an irreconcilable conflict between the firm's obligations to its clients and my continued service on Columbia City Council. As a result, I must choose between continuing to serve on City Council or remaining a member of the firm with which I have practiced law for more than 30 years. Practical considerations and a genuine desire to remain with the firm compel me to choose the firm over City Council. I will submit my resignation from City Council to the city manager today, to be effective immediately.
I want to thank my law firm for allowing me to serve on City Council for nearly 16 years and in particular for permitting me to take significant amounts of time away from the practice of law virtually every week in order to serve on City Council. The firm has been very patient and generous with me, and making the decision that I must resign from City Council was as difficult for the management of my firm as it was for me.
Finally, I want to thank the many people who have contributed to my re-election campaign or who have otherwise offered support for my re-election. Disappointing the people who wanted to see me re-elected is the most painful part of my decision to resign from City Council. I will in the near future begin refunding the unspent balance of contributions I have received.