By David Barer
The Dallas Morning News
Originally published Feb. 11, 2014
Attorneys assisting the University of Texas System and a Legislative committee investigating embattled regent Wallace Hall billed the state upwards of $400,000 for 2013 work, pay stubs indicate.
The legal costs are a portion of the toll of the ongoing debacle, which critics say has sullied UT’s reputation and spurred the resignation of top leaders.
Hall is under investigation for massive record requests he made of UT Austin and his possible mishandling of private student information, among other matters. Many believe Hall sought to remove UT Austin President Bill Powers. The House committee could soon recommend Hall’s impeachment.
UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa officially announced Monday he would step down, pending the appointment of a new chancellor, and return to medicine full time. Cigarroa said the turmoil at UT didn’t affect his decision.
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, an ally of Cigarroa’s, said in a statement the pediatric transplant surgeon took the high road in his statements and discord at UT must have weighed on his decision.
Head Longhorn football coach Mack Brown resigned following the 2013 season. Brown cited, among several reasons, disharmony between UT officials as a factor in his decision.
Rusty Hardin and company, counsel for the House committee investigating Hall, stayed at an Austin hotel for two nights for about $800 per person. The team also charged $500 for dinner at an Austin Italian restaurant with two individuals named “witness” and “Chief of Staff,” according to expense reports.
Overall, Hardin has billed just over $200,000 for work and expenses from August through October 2013, according to receipts provided by the Texas Legislative Council.
Philip Hilder, and his legal team representing UT System, billed nearly $200,000 for work from September through November of 2013. Hilder’s contract has a pay ceiling of $200,000.Hilder’s bills are largely blacked out. The Dallas Morning News obtained the receipts through the Texas Public Information Act. Hilder’s team booked several Houston-to-Austin flights and stays at Austin hotels including the Hyatt. The team billed UT a maximum of $200 per night for hotel stays in Austin, though the actual cost exceeded that amount in a few instances, according to records.
More bills will become available; Hardin has worked through January on the investigation.
Hall has said, through his attorney and the media, that his intention was to improve UT and that he found instances of impropriety among lawmakers and admissions officials, among other matters.