University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall has requested an Attorney General Opinion less than one month after he was rebuked but not indicted by a Travis County Grand Jury. Hall requested the opinion on the authority of the University of Texas Board of Regents to prohibit a regent from accessing University records. He requested records from the investigation by Kroll Associates into University admission practices. The findings were released in February. The Regent has been in a battle with University leaders and Texas legislators over his inquiries into the admissions practices at the University.
The letter requesting an Attorney General Opinion was sent on Hall’s behalf by his lawyer, Bill Aleshire. The letter states that “Regent Wallace Hall has concerns about corrupted processes at the University of Texas at Austin, most recently regarding student admissions practices.” The letter noted that the former Chancellor of the University asked for an investigation of the admissions report which was commissioned. The findings of that investigation were published in the Kroll Report, entitled “University of Texas at Austin – Investigation of Admissions Practices and Allegations of Undue Influence Summary of Key Findings.”
Merrill Hope of Breitbart Texas covered the Kroll Report when it was released writing that the report “detailed an elaborate ‘coding’ scheme through which University President William Powers misled an earlier internal inquiry into the UT-Austin admissions process.” The investigation also revealed that former University of Texas President William Powers used his position to get individuals who were not otherwise qualified admitted into the undergraduate school.
On March 9, 2015, Hall, in his official capacity as a regent, requested access to all of the evidentiary documents associated with the Kroll Report. Hall contends in his letter requesting a Texas Attorney General Opinion, that the Chancellor and the Chairman of the University Board of Regents had “concerns” about his request to see these documents and refused to provide the records pending a meeting on April 8th. The meeting was called pursuant to the Board’s Rule 10801. Rule 10801, entitled “Policy on Transparency, Accountability, and Access to Information,” states that “The Board of Regents and U.T. System Administration are committed to enhancing transparency, accountability, and access and disclosure of information to the public, the media, elected and appointed state and federal officials, and executive policy makers.”
The Texas Tribune reported on April 8th that the Regents voted to allow Hall to review data and documents collected during the investigation but that his “colleagues warned him about overstepping his bounds and pursuing lone-wolf investigations.” “They also left open the question of whether Hall should have access to confidential student information. According to the letter, Hall was denied that information by Chancellor Bill McRaven.” Hall’s letter to the Attorney General states that although three regents voted to allow Hall access to the Kroll records, “none of the records Regent Hall requested on March 9th have been provided to him.”
In his Attorney General letter request, Hall has also asked the Texas Attorney General to determine “whether UT System Board of Regents’ Rule 10801(5.4.5) is legally enforceable, after a Board meeting pursuant to that Rule in which two or more regents approved the regent’s records request, does the Chancellor have authority to prohibit the regent from having access to or obtaining copies of records that the regent believes are necessary to review to fulfill his duties as a regent?”
His letter reads like an Attorney General Opinion and sets out prior Attorney General Opinions in support of his arguments. Hall argues that prior opinions from the Attorney General’s Office make it clear that a regent may obtain information in either his capacity as a regent or as member of the public under the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA). He also argues that information requests from a regent in his official capacity (as was done in this instance) are not subject to the confidentiality provisions of the TPIA and that a prior A.G. Opinion expressed that “a member of that board has an inherent right of access to such records” when he is acting in his official capacity.
Hall also argues that Texas case law regarding directors of corporations is consistent with prior rulings by the Attorney General in that an “individual director cannot make his full contribution to the management of the corporate business unless given access to the corporation’s books and records.”
Hall concludes that other A.G. Opinions demonstrate that a regent has an “inherent right of access to the agency records [which] is not subject to the judgment of other board members (or of the Chancellor) as to whether they think the regent ‘needs’ that information.”
Regent Hall asked for an expedited issuance of an opinion by the Attorney General prior to the next Board meeting scheduled for May 13, 2015. The letter states that at the last meeting on April 9th, some of the Board members expressed an interest in changing Rule 10801 at the May meeting. The suggested change would require a majority vote by the Board in order for a regent to have access to university records when as penned by Hall’s lawyer, “the Board Chair or Chancellor has ‘concerns’ about the regent’s request.” Hall states that “the Board lacks authority, as does the Chancellor, to interfere in a regent’s access to university records that the regent deems necessary to fulfill his official duties.”
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2