State budget writer Norment also William and Mary's best paid adjunct

Travis Fain
Contact Reportertfain@dailypress.com
William & Mary's best paid adjunct just so happens to hold university purse strings.

Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. "Tommy" Norment is the highest paid adjunct professor at the College of William and Mary by a wide margin.

An attorney who has been in the Virginia Senate since 1992, Norment also makes more than double what any adjunct professor at the University of Virginia School of Law is paid, pulling in $60,000 a year in a field that typically pays less than $10,000.

He makes more than judges who moonlight as professors, more than William and Mary adjuncts who manage campus legal assistance clinics and more than a long list of part-time professors outside the law school who have distinguished resumes in their fields.

The reason, according to the school: Norment's work load, his experience and his dealings with College President Taylor Reveley, whom the powerful legislative leader and co-chairman of the Senate's budget committee advises on university matters.

"It won't be apples to apples to compare an adjunct professor with Sen. Norment," William and Mary spokesman Brian Whitson said.

The Daily Press did so anyway following a debate during this past legislative session as to whether Norment's dual role as a public university professor and budget writer created a conflict of interest. William and Mary provided salaries for the 44 adjuncts it pays at least $10,000 a year, which is the cutoff for mandatory release under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

Their average pay was about $19,300 a year. An additional 155 adjuncts at the college make less than $10,000 a year, Whitson said via email. The William and Mary Law School lists more than 100 adjunct professors, including Norment, so most of its adjunct faculty makes less than $10,000.

The University of Virginia School of Law has about 100 paid adjunct faculty, all making between $2,000 and $24,500 a year, according to a school spokesman. Their median pay is $6,000, he said. The Daily Press requested similar information from George Mason Univesity, Virginia's third and final public law school, but the university did not provide its data within two weeks.

The William and Mary Law School's adjunct faculty includes Virginia Supreme Court Justice D. Arthur Kelsey, former U.S. Magistrate Judge Tommy E. Miller and current U.S. District Court Judge John Gibney. Williamsburg-James City County Commonwealth's Attorney Nathan Green teaches there, as do Hampton Circuit Court Judge Wilford Taylor and Newport News Assisant U.S. Attorney Brian Samuels.

"Sounds like (Norment) negotiated a very good contract," said Miller, who teaches two classes a year and said he makes about $7,500.

The Daily Press reached out to a number of other adjuncts, both in the law school and in other William and Mary schools. None explicitly criticized Norment's salary, nor did they particularly defend it.

"You may quote me as somewhat shocked," said Lawrence Wilkerson, who has a lengthy resume in the U.S. Army and in civilian government, including a stint as chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson makes $20,000 a year to teach a pair of classes, one graduate level, one undergraduate.

"If I were Taylor Reveley I would solicit such influential people as I could also," Wilkerson said. "I've got to go to the General Assembly every year."

Norment, R-James City, teaches two classes in the fall: one at the law school and an undergraduate course in government, Whitson said. He supervises law and government internship programs and guides independent research in the spring, in addition to counseling Reveley, Whitson said.

"Sen. Norment is a very valuable adviser to President Reveley as he is considering policy matters, planning and general issues facing higher education," Whitson said in an email, though he would not provide concrete examples of Norment's advice.

"The president doesn't discuss publicly the private conversations he has with individuals who advise him," Whitson emailed. "I expect most, if not all, have been in-person conversations or phone calls."

Norment declined comment for this article through a spokesman. He also declined to discuss the matter with the Daily Press during the recently ended legislative session, though he did give a floor speech after state Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, publicly labeled Norment's dual role a conflict of interest.

Petersen was upset that legislation he'd proposed to limit the number of out-of-state students at Virginia universities, which the universities opposed, had been sent to one of Norment's committees to die. Norment also sponsors spending measures for the college, which is close to his district.

"When you work for an employer and then you put yourself in a position of supervising that employer, that puts you inherently in a ticklish position," Petersen said.

Norment dubbed Petersen "a petulant child" for his complaints. He noted that he got an opinion from then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell when he started at William and Mary in 2008, saying the job wasn't a conflict. At the time, Norment was paid $160,000 a year.

The salary, and Norment's legal duties at the college, were scaled back after Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli questioned the college's longstanding practice of having its own in-house legal team. By law, Virginia's attorney general provides legal counsel to state universities.

Norment's salary was then reduced to $60,000.

Both McDonnell and Cuccinelli declined, through spokespeople, to comment for this article. Whitson said William and Mary sees no conflict of interest in its relationship with the senator.

"We're delighted to be able to offer our students access to a distinguished lecturer like Sen. Norment, who brings a wealth of experience as both an experienced legislator and accomplished attorney to the classroom," Whitson said via email. "We're also fortunate to have his counsel as a policy adviser to the president."

Fain can be reached by phone at 757-525-1759.

Copyright © 2017, The Virginia Gazette
64°