In the latest sign of rising tension between the University of Texas and its bosses, the Austin flagship and the UT System are squabbling over access to records.
Kevin Hegarty, UT-Austin’s vice president and chief financial officer, who is also the school’s custodian of records, said in an email to Dan Sharphorn, the UT System’s interim vice chancellor and general counsel, that he had no choice but to impose a moratorium on supplying open-records files sought by Regent Wallace Hall Jr.
Hegarty cited an investigation of Hall by the state House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, which will decide whether to recommend his impeachment.
The panel has requested that all documents related to Hall be preserved.
Sharphorn’s request — on behalf of Hall — for the university’s Public Information Act files for June is “cancelled, effective immediately,” Hegarty said in the email, which was sent Monday and first reported by the Texas Tribune. The American-Statesman obtained copies of the email and related documents under the information act.
The university previously has supplied dozens of boxes of open-records files sought by Hall. Some of those records were “altered while in UT System possession,” “not kept in the original order” or apparently “tossed back into the boxes at random,” Hegarty wrote.
In response, Sharphorn insisted Wednesday that the university continue supplying records.
“You have no authority to unilaterally ‘cancel’ a request by a member of the Board of Regents to review UT-Austin documents,” he wrote to Hegarty.
Sharphorn denied that system officials had altered any documents and asked for evidence to the contrary. He said the order of some documents changed as they were organized to separate public records from private ones identifying students. And some sticky notes might have been added or removed to organize files, he said.
UT-Austin spokesman Gary Susswein said the university had no comment on Sharphorn’s statement.
State Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, co-chair of the transparency panel, said UT-Austin is trying to comply with the panel’s request to preserve documents.
“We hope that they would adhere to our letter,” she said. “We’re just trying to maintain the integrity of the investigation.”
Her fellow co-chair, Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, said he’s confident the UT System and UT-Austin will provide all documents needed by the panel.
“What they have between themselves — that would seem to be their business,” he said.