WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee scolded West Virginia Rep. David McKinley on Wednesday for disregarding House rules by failing to change the name of his self-titled engineering firm after joining Congress.
McKinley, a Republican, owned McKinley & Associates, an engineering and architecture firm in his home state, before his election to Congress in 2010. After the election, he asked the ethics committee whether he needed to change the firm’s name. The panel said yes.
Instead, McKinley sold his interest in the firm with the name intact.
The bipartisan ethics panel told McKinley in a letter that he violated a House rule that prohibits lawmakers from allowing their names to be used by firms that provide professional services for a fee. His actions did not reflect creditably on the House, the panel said.
The rebuke is considered mild and ends the inquiry.
McKinley said in a statement Wednesday that although he disagrees with the committee’s conclusions, “I accept that the committee’s release of a letter and report resolves this issue,” McKinley said.
“Soon after my first election in 2010, I was surprised to learn that ‘architecture’ is defined as a so-called ‘fiduciary’ profession under House standards, which required me to alter my relationship with the company I had founded 30-plus years ago. Therefore I turned to my attorney for advice and counsel.
“After receiving conflicting guidance from the staff of the Ethics Committee, my attorney concluded that I had two options — change the name or sell the company. We chose the latter. Unfortunately, the advice of my former attorney was incorrect,” McKinley continued. “Months later, the committee insisted that the name would also need to be changed, but the new owners were unwilling to change the name.
“After nearly six years of back and forth with the Committee on Ethics, this matter is now resolved. I have cooperated with the committee throughout this inquiry. Even though a ‘reproval’ is not a sanction under the committee’s rules, I do not agree with the committee’s conclusion that my actions warrant a letter of reproval. I do not agree with many of the statements and findings in the committee’s letter and report. A more complete picture is provided in my submissions to the committee — most recently on Aug. 22, 2016 — which have been released by the committee with this report. … It is time to focus on continuing the work the people of the First District elected me to do,” McKinley said.
Among 66 pages of documents McKinley submitted to the committee is a letter stating McKinley began the process of selling his interest in McKinley & Associates in 2007, “before any consideration of public service,” by selling 30 percent of his stock in the firm to an employee stock ownership program.
In April 2011, according to the letter, McKinley signed a memorandum of understanding to sell the remaining 70 percent of his original shares to the ESOP. He entered a formal agreement to sell those shares on Dec. 31, 2011, and the sale was closed April 30, 2012, according to the letter.
“Rep. McKinley understood, in good faith, that the sale of his entire ownership interest in McKinley & Associates would resolve, and was an appropriate response to, any concerns expressed by the Committee as to the company’s continued use of the name ‘McKinley & Associates.’”