On May 13, 2016, the Office of Congressional Ethics transmitted a referral to the Committee on Ethics of the United States House of Representatives regarding Rep. Roger Williams.
Nature of the Review
Representative Roger Williams owns an auto dealership in Weatherford, Texas. On November 4, 2015, Rep. Williams offered, and the House of Representatives accepted by voice vote, an amendment to surface transportation reauthorization legislation to limit a provision of the bill that prohibited the renting or loaning of vehicles subject to safety recalls to companies that are “primarily” engaged in the car rental business. His amendment exempted companies not primarily engaged in the car rental business, such as auto dealers, from the prohibition on renting or loaning vehicles subject to safety recalls. If Representative Williams improperly took official action on a matter in which he had a personal financial interest, then he may have violated House rules and standards of conduct regarding conflicts of interest.
The Board recommended that the Committee on Ethics further review the allegation that Representative Williams improperly took official action on a matter in which he had a personal financial interest, as there is substantial reason to believe that Representative Williams’ personal financial interest in his auto dealership may be perceived as having influenced his performance of official duties – namely, his decision to offer of an amendment to the surface transportation legislation.
On August 11, 2016, the Committee on Ethics released a statement indicating it would continue to gather information necessary to complete its review. The Committee published the OCE report and findings and announced the allegations would be further reviewed pursuant to Committee Rule 18(a).
On August 1, 2017 the Committee on Ethics released a report concluding that the Williams Amendment could have affected Representative Williams’ personal financial interests, however the totality of the circumstances surrounding Representative Williams’ actions did not create a reasonable inference of improper conduct. The Committee cautioned Members that this is an area where mistakes can be made and stated that Representative Williams should have contacted the Committee for guidance to avoid any inference of improper action. The Committee also encouraged Members considering sponsoring legislation or an amendment to contact the Committee if the legislation may personally impact them, and to exercise caution to avoid any conflict of interest.