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As UT Systems pledge TPIA review, Regent Hall steadfast on records request

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TWC News: As UT Systems pledge TPIA review, Regent Hall steadfast on records request
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How well does the UT System comply with the Texas Public Information Act? That's the question University of Texas Board Members want answered in a formal review.

At this week’s Regents meeting, Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa directed UT System Compliance Officer Larry Plutko to oversee a "targeted compliance review of procedures and applications,” of the TPIA.

Possibly at the reason for the audit is UT Regent Wallace L. Hall, Jr.

The Dallas-area businessman is fighting off a legislative investigation from the Texas House Select Committee on Transparency. It's a battle which could lead the UT Regent to impeachment hearings at the State Capitol.

Hall has been accused by campus officials--as well as legislators in the Texas Senate and House--of abusing his authority in massive open records requests at the University of Texas, Austin.

Requests many have said are a "witch-hunt" targeted at UT President Powers.

Powers and Gov. Perry have clashed over the future directions of higher education. Hall is a Perry appointee.

Hall's attorneys argue investigation impeachment proceedings fall short of state statute for the allegations on the table, yet demand due process.

In a letter to committee co-chairs Dan Flynn and Carol Alvarado, Attorney Allan Van Fleet expressed legal concern over next month’s possible hearings. He writes, "to not allow Regent Hall to call or examine witness…would defy state and national precedent by denying Hall and his lawyers the procedural protections that the Texas House Committee afforded Governor Ferguson nearly a century ago."

Van Fleet goes on to say presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon each were allowed due process during their impeachment proceedings."

In other recent letters to the Transparency Committee, Hall's attorneys defend the Regents position for records requests saying Hall is "bringing to light acts, omissions, misrepresentations and favoritism within the UT System that some would strongly prefer remain undisclosed."

UT System’s eight recommendations include:

• Procedures on handling and processing TPIA request
• Processes on notifying the correct executive officers and employees to provide responsive documents
• Decision-making on release and/or maintaining the confidentiality of documents
• Adequate staffing to ensure timely responsiveness
• Appropriate in-house expertise of the TPIA
• Whether documentary samples to the Attorney General are truly "representative samples"
• Website compliance with UT Stem's request for transparency
• Relevant record management issues

The Chancellor expects completion of review by Oct. 31.

Transparency Committee hearings on Hall Jr. are scheduled sometime in September. Transparency Co-Chair Dan Flynn tells YNN, “Because of the historical nature of what we are doing, we have to do this right.”

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