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In unusual move, regent obtains vast file of open records materials from UT

By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz, Austin American-Statesman

The University of Texas has supplied more than 40 boxes of records to a member of its governing board who demanded to see all of the materials released in response to public information requests for a nearly two-year period, the American-Statesman has learned.

It’s unclear why Wallace Hall Jr., a member of the UT System Board of Regents, sought all open records correspondence and responses for a 23-month period beginning in January 2011 and running through November 2012. The university received about 2,500 open records requests during that period.

Hall, a businessman from Dallas, told the Statesman that he is “all about transparency” but referred questions about his request to regents Chairman Gene Powell and the UT System’s vice chancellor for external relations.

“Regents are free to request information — and many do — to help familiarize and educate themselves on issues facing UT System institutions,” Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, a spokeswoman for the system, said Wednesday by email. “Access to information is essential for good governance. Regent Hall is thorough in performing his due diligence — both in his business and in his work as a regent.”

The campus appears to have sent more than 100,000 pages of documents to the system’s offices in downtown Austin.

A log of those materials obtained by the Statesman from the Austin flagship under the Texas Public Information Act numbers nearly 500 pages. For most of the period in question, the campus supplied original records to the board office for Hall to review rather than copies, to speed up processing time.

Campus officials said they withheld records containing private student information. The requested materials ranged widely and included a list of technology licensing agreements, personnel records for a history professor and the university’s contract with ESPN for the Longhorn Network.

The matter underscores rising tensions between some members of the governing board and Bill Powers, president of the Austin campus. On Monday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst decried efforts by regents to “micromanage” the university. He didn’t elaborate.

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