UT System Board of Regents committee orders review of UT’s open record compliance

Jacob Kerr

Update (8:05): The Board of Regents approved the audit committee's review Monday morning

Original story: In the wake of UT’s decision to suspend open records requests from the UT System, the Board of Regents Audit, Compliance and Management Review Committee will conduct a review of the University’s compliance with the Texas Public Information Act.

The decision was based on Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s recommendations given in Wednesday’s audit committee meeting. Cigarroa suggested the committee carry out a compliance review of the System Administration and three System institutions: UT-Austin, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the University of Texas at San Antonio. The committee unanimously approved his recommendations.

UT spokesman Gary Susswein said the University will comply with the review.

“We feel like we do a very good job in complying with all the requirements of the open records law,” Susswein said. “If there [are] any recommendations that can help us get even better than we are at maintaining transparency, then we are happy to look at them.”

Systemwide Compliance Officer Larry Plutko will carry out the review. Plutko will present the findings to the board before Oct. 31.

Earlier this month, Kevin Hegarty, UT chief financial officer and custodian of records, canceled and suspended all open records requests from the System in compliance with the Texas Legislature’s investigation into Regent Wallace Hall. Due to his large open records requests from the University, Hall is being investigated by the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations after state legislators accused him of micromanaging the University and working with others regents to remove UT-Austin President William Powers Jr. from his position. 

In July, the transparency committee requested that all documents related to Hall be preserved for the investigation. In a letter to the UT System, which was obtained by the Texas Tribune, Hegarty explained the decision to cancel the requests, claiming that documents previously sent to the System under TPIA may have been tampered with.

“I remain deeply concerned that prior TPIA document files sent to the System were returned to the campus having been altered while in UT System possession,” Hegarty wrote.

In a letter sent Thursday to the transparency committee co-chairs, Hall’s attorney Stephen Ryan defended Hall’s actions and claimed Hall had evidence that two state legislators inappropriately influenced UT-Austin officials to accept two students into the University.

Susswein said the University approved of its admission policy and would be open to an inquiry.

“We are proud of our admissions policy and are happy to answer any questions the legislative committee might have about the policy,” Susswein said.