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UTB-TSC: How the breakup came about

January 15, 2011 11:48 PM

By JAZMINE ULLOA, The Brownsville Herald

The decision to dissolve the partnership between the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College came three months ago at a meeting of the UT Board of Regents.

There already had been plans to change the contract, stemming in part from an escalating dispute in 2008 over unpaid rent from UTB to TSC worth more than $10.8 million, by some estimates close to $16 million. The Texas Legislature is supposed to pay the University of Texas at Brownsville to lease buildings owned by the junior college. But after several years of unpaid rent and a tightening of the state budget, TSC sought the money directly from the UT System instead.

A joint task force was formed between the UT System and TSC to resolve the issue, and it ultimately began to discuss changes in the partnership agreement between the institutions.

University officials believed a new agreement would allow UTB-TSC to better account for its finances to prevent further battles and would give the institution greater leverage to become part of the Permanent University Fund (PUF), a multibillion-dollar source of funding created by the Texas Legislature for public universities across the state.

For 15 months, UT System officials and UTB-TSC senior representatives, including the TSC Board of Trustees, negotiated the terms of a new agreement. A vote on a draft of the contract was slated for 2010.

But before then, in May of last year, the junior college board saw a shakeup in its membership when three of its longtime members did not return to their positions.

Rosemary Breedlove, who had served on the TSC board for 12 years, lost her bid for Place 5 to Francisco "Kiko" Rendon, who now serves as chair.

Long-time trustee Chester R. Gonzalez and Eduardo Campirano, a lifelong Brownsville resident and director and CEO of the Port of Brownsville first elected to the board in 1999, decided not to run.

Fresh to the seven-member board, along with Rendon, were Dr. Robert A. Lozano, vice president for medical affairs at Valley Baptist Medical Center–Brownsville, and Juan "Trey" Mendez, a 30-year-old attorney.

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