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UT Regents Backtrack on Open Records, Investigation (Update)

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Update: The UT Board of Regents' decision to release public documents to the Texas legislature didn't stop the state Senate from passing a bill that would limit the board's authority and require new regents to complete an ethics training course. The Senate passed the bill today. It now heads to the House for a vote.

Original Story (1:45 p.m.): The UT System Board of Regents voted Thursday to release all records requested by state lawmakers and ask the state Attorney General to conduct an investigation into the relationship between the UT Law School and the Law School Foundation

Last week, regents had considered withholding documents from the legislature. Regent James Dannenbaum says that was a miscommunication.

"Requests to the Attorney General were not made to withhold information, but to ensure the board was properly fulfilling its statutory and fiduciary responsibilities, and was protected under attorney-client privilege when applicable," Dannenbaum said.

The board said it will release documents requested, as long as those who request the documents sign a confidentiality agreement.

The decisions comeamid increasing tension between state lawmakers and UT regents, which Regent Prentice Gary acknowledged during Thursday's meeting.

"I think it is important we acknowledge that the reality of controversy between board and legislature has unfortunately and inadvertently cast a shadow on the University of Texas system, " Gary said.

The Texas legislature is also considering a number of bills that would reduce the power and fundingof the Board of Regents, further increasing tension between the two bodies.

In addition, the Board's decision to have the Attorney General investigate the Law Foundation's relationship with the UT Law School also means the Board terminated plans to have an outside review conducted.

The Law Foundation program had already been reviewed internally by the UT System and the board had voted to have another external audit conducted. But lawmakers said that was a waste of money and the Attorney General should conduct the review instead.

The board voted today to have the Attorney General specifically look at transparency between UT leadership and Law School leaders, how funds were expended and the flow of funds to the Law School and its employees.

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