UT System sues AG Ken Paxton to stop records release

By Ally Mutnick
The Texas Tribune
Originally published Aug. 11, 2015

The University of Texas System is suing Attorney General Ken Paxton over his office’s ruling that the system must release certain records related to an admissions investigation of the University of Texas at Austin.

The information, part of an open records request by the Austin American-Statesman, is related to a report on UT-Austin’s admission practices that was commissioned by system administrators. The investigation, conducted by Kroll Associates Inc., found that former UT-Austin President Bill Powers helped some students gain admission over the objections of admissions officials.

In its petition filed with a district court in Travis County, the UT System claims the requested information is exempt from disclosure under a constitutional right to privacy.

“We are filing suit to protect the private information of UT students, as well as applicants and prospective students,” UT System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said in a statement. “In our view, the AG has misapplied a rule related to which documents are part of a ‘completed investigation’ and are therefore available to the public. Part of the significant impact of that decision falls on the thousands of students who have applied to the University of Texas at Austin.”

After receiving open records requests, the UT System asked Paxton’s office for advice on whether the information in the report was exempt from disclosure. The attorney general responded in July, telling the UT System it could withhold some information — such as the identity of non-enrolled UT-Austin applicants — but it must make the rest public.

The Kroll report has spawned other litigation. In June, UT Regent Wallace Hall sued UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven to gain access to information related to the investigation. The system denied Hall’s request, saying student academic records were protected by federal law.