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UT System drama: Hall accused Cigarroa of neglecting work

HOUSTON (AP) — Before University of Texas system Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa announced he would retire, embattled system Regent Wallace Hall Jr. accused him of dereliction of duty, emails show.

Hall accused Cigarroa of falling down on his job for not moving against UT-Austin President Bill Powers and Powers' finance chief, according to several emails by Hall obtained by the Houston Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman.

When Cigarroa announced his retirement from the chancellorship last month, he said the ongoing political strife between some regents associated with Gov. Rick Perry, including Hall, and Powers loyalists among university supporters was no factor.

A select House committee has been investigating Hall since last fall for possible impeachment on allegations that he abused his office, including abuse of open records laws with requests for documents from the UT administration.

Houston lawyer Rusty Hardin, special counsel for the Texas House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, said the committee report on the Hall investigation would be presented "very shortly."

In his emails, Hall accused Cigarroa of turning a blind eye to what Hall alleged was false testimony to the select committee in October by Powers and his finance chief, Kevin Hegarty.

Hegarty testified that he had to process the 800,000 documents to meet Hall's demands. Cigarroa described the volume of the requests as disruptive and said it drained morale across the UT system.

One week before Cigarroa announced his retirement, he received an email from an irate Hall.

"The volume came nowhere close to 800,000 pages," Hall insisted, estimating his request as for fewer than 100,000 pages.

"That did not deter him (Hegarty) from providing false testimony to the committee or to the public. Will there be any ramifications to Mr. Hegarty as an employee of the UT System, or will you turn a blind eye to this type of behavior?" Hall demanded.

Three days before, Hall sent him another angry email reminding him of his "duties and responsibilities," as well as Powers' official duties. He disputed Powers' committee testimony regarding policy for the accounting rules for fundraising.

"I have attached three separate links for you that deal with your duties and responsibilities, as well as those of President Powers concerning these allegations," the email stated.

A week before that email, Hall complained to Cigarroa that Powers and Hegarty were stalling in providing information on a UT System investigation into what Hall called favoritism in UT admissions. "I have no confidence that I will get full cooperation from Bill Powers now or in the future as his assurances are unsupported by fact."

A UT-Austin spokesman said Powers and Hegarty stand by their testimonies.

"Both President Powers and Vice President Hegarty were notified by (the UT) System about the possibility of changing their testimony," spokesman Gary Susswein told the Chronicle. They declined, he said, adding: "What they said was completely accurate."

Asked by the Chronicle again if pressure to fire Powers or Hegarty factored into his retirement decision, Cigarroa said through a spokeswoman: "The Board of Regents has not pressured me to fire President Powers or Kevin Hegarty."
 

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