Area congressman cleared after year-long ethics review

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin. (File)
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WASHINGTON (KWTX) The U.S. House Ethics Committee Tuesday cleared a Central Texas congressman who came under scrutiny over an amendment he offered to benefit auto dealers.

“As I knew all along, the committee found no violation of any law, rule or regulation,” U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin said in a press release Tuesday.

“As promised, I fully cooperated with the committee and am pleased that this matter is now closed.”

Williams, whose district includes part of Bell County as well as Bosque, Coryell and Hamilton counties, and who is an auto dealer himself, came under scrutiny by the House Ethics Committee over an amendment he offered to transportation legislation in 2015 that would have allowed auto dealers to rent out vehicles even if they're subject to recall.

A report to the committee in April 2016 from an outside panel, the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, which reviews ethics complaints against House members, said Williams' actions may have violated House rules and standards of conduct regarding conflicts of interest, but after a year-long review, the Ethics Committee voted unanimously to clear the congressman.

The Ethics Committee report, however, said “Williams should have contacted the committee for guidance, and to identify in advance any potential limitations on his ability to offer and support the Williams Amendment in order to avoid any inference of improper action.”

If he had done that, the report says, the committee would have told him he wasn’t barred from sponsoring the amendment, but would have cautioned him “that some members of the public might, on first impression and without the benefit of the full picture of the committee’s investigation ultimately developed question whether his actions could be conflicted and that he should take care to avoid creating any impressions that he was sponsoring the amendment to benefit himself or his business.”

Williams said Tuesday he plans to continue to serve as a voice for small business owners.

“I have extensive knowledge and experience in running a small business and I chose to apply some commonsense to legislation that was overreaching with regulations. This bill would have resulted in unintended consequences that would punish small business owners, employees and consumers,” Williams said.