University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves and his wife flew multiple times at university expense in premium class seats rather than economy in violation of school policy, according to an audit report by the UT System.
A UT spokesman said Fenves would reimburse the university $27,000, the difference between economy and the business class seats at issue.
University travel policy does not allow for payment of airfare for first or business class when flying on university business without an approved exception, such as a health issue, lack of other seating or reimbursement by another entity, according to the audit report, a copy of which was obtained by the American-Statesman.
“The reasons provided in the supporting documentation for the premium airfares identified did not fall under any of these allowable exceptions,” said the report by J. Michael Peppers, the system’s chief audit executive, and Moshmee Kalamkar, assistant director of audits.
The travel at issue involved about 50 flights for Fenves and 40 for his wife, said UT spokesman Gary Susswein. The destinations included New York, Washington and other domestic spots, as well as international trips to China, South Korea, Singapore and other places. Fenves and his wife flew economy on other trips.
The total cost of the business class flights for both Fenves and his wife, Carmel, was $99,000.
The Statesman has filed an open records request for more information about Fenves’ travel.
Fenves said Monday that he would conform to the policy in the future.
“I thought it was approved,” he told the Statesman.
Asked whether he planned to pay back the difference between economy and business fares, the UT president at first replied: “I’ve not been asked to pay it back.”
However, his spokesman said a short time later that Fenves would reimburse the university $27,000.
“The trips identified by the audit were taken for official university business,” Susswein said. “They were not paid for with tax or tuition dollars, but with gift funds specifically donated for presidential expenses. We acknowledge the audit results and the need to follow university rules.”
Overall, travel and entertainment expenses incurred by Fenves and his spouse from June 3, 2015, when he became president, through May of last year “appeared appropriate, accurate, and in compliance” with university rules, the audit report said. It described the air travel matter as a “non-priority,” “medium-level finding.”