The University of Texas Board of Regents today authorized a thorough external investigation of the use and management of money provided for the support of the University of Texas at Austin Law School.
The recommendation came from the Board's Audit, Compliance and Management Review Committee at a special called meeting and was approved in a meeting of the full Board by a 4 to 3 vote.
“The committee approved the motion to set aside the previous report related to the Law School and Law School Foundation, determining that the report did not fully address the issues of concern to the comittee,” said Regent Brenda Pejovich, who chairs the Audit, Compliance and Management Review Committee.
Pejovich said a new external investigation will be conducted and will supplement an ongoing audit currently underway by the UT System Audit Office.
Members of the committee raised concerns regarding the way decisions on compensation, benefits and disbursements have been made and implemented. Some of those concerns came to light through information gathered from public records requested from UT Austin, including contradicting reports from UT Austin administrative leadership as to whether they knew about deferred compensation for law school faculty.
Additionally, between 2007 and 2010, concerns about lack of transparency and reporting of compensation led to a request by the UT Austin administration that a review be conducted and changes recommended, but that project was never undertaken.
Addressing speculation surrounding a review of the previous two years of Texas Public Information Act responses and documents from UT Austin, Regent Wallace Hall cited a Systemwide effort that began in 2011 to focus on transparency and use of public records as a governance tool.
"We have found that through the Texas Public Information Act, boards may learn about significant issues of concern to the public, the press or faculty from open records requests," said Hall, who also serves on the Audit, Compliance and Magagement Review Committee.
"Were it not for the efforts and the courage of some of our UT Law faculty to bring these issues to light, the Board, the Legislature and the public would never have been made fully aware of this ongoing, inappropriate means of supplementing Law School faculty members' income," Hall said. "The documents we reviewed are so informative and so surprising that we are convinced the Board must direct a further look into these issues."
Regents Vice Chairman Paul Foster thanked Hall and his commitment to transparency and said it’s the Board’s responsibility to pursue the issue. He used the example of his experience on corporate boards, saying while boards should support and not micromanage, there are times when a board must excercise its power to protect the integrity of the organization.
Foster also said it is critical that the Board ensures that donors have the utmost confidence that their contributions are being used in a way that is above reproach.
"The Board is extremely grateful to the many generous benefactors of the UT Law School," Foster said. "It is with this sense of gratitude and duty that the Board will fully discharge its lawful responsibilities to safeguard the use of those funds intended for maximum benefit to the University."
Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and a fall 2012 enrollment of roughly 216,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees and educates nearly three-fourths of the state’s health care professionals annually. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $13.9 billion (FY 2013) including $3.1 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With more than 87,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.