An occasionally testy Neil Bush insisted today that his business ties with two developers did not conflict with his role as a director of the failed Silverado savings and loan.
The testimony by the President's son came during the third day of a federal Office of Thrift Supervision hearing on conflict-of-interest allegations against Bush, who served as a director of the thrift that collapsed in 1988 at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $1 billion.
Bush told Administrative Law Judge Daniel J. Davidson this morning that he "had absolutely no doubt" that his dealings with Kenneth Good and Bill Walters were ethical. Consequently, Bush said, he did not consult with Silverado's management about the question of a potential conflict.
Davidson, who several times warned Bush about interrupting the government lawyer's line of questioning, will examine testimony from the hearing after it ends later today. He then will recommend what sanctions, if any, should be taken against the President's son.
Bush also said he used what he obliquely called "the Smith smell test" to evaluate a $150,000 investment by Walters in Bush's oil company, JNB Exploration.
The company used the money to finance an oil-drilling venture in Wyoming in the mid-1980s that never made a profit.
Bush told Davidson that under his "test," he would automatically reject any proposal that he deemed politically motivated.
The OTS alleged that Bush failed to adequately inform fellow directors of his business ties with Good and Walters, developers who eventually defaulted on more than $132 million in Silverado loans.
In answer to questions from government attorney Stephen Hershkowitz, Bush said several times he could not recall whether he had discussions with fellow Silverado directors about the specifics of his dealings with Good and Walters.
"That was five years ago," Bush said. "I don't recall the specific discussions, but the discussions took place or there wouldn't have been a general awareness."
Several times during the hearing, Davidson warned a sometimes testy Bush to answer questions directly and not to interrupt Hershkowitz.
"I'm sorry," Bush told the judge. "My lawyer advised me that I should listen. I'm sorry."