Attorney General: Regents do not have authority to limit information requests

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A Travis County grand jury declined to indict UT System Regent Wallace Hall on Tuesday on charges of abuse of office, misuse of information and official oppression. However, it took the unusual step of issuing a report condemning Hall and calling for his removal.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Attorney General Ken Paxton said UT System regents do not have the authority to limit information requests Tuesday, in response to an appeal to Paxton by Regent Wallace Hall last month.

“Unless a state or federal law requires otherwise, a court would likely conclude that the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System may not prohibit an individual regent from obtaining access to records in the possession of the University that are necessary to fulfill his duties as a regent,” Paxton wrote, summarizing his statement.

On April 20, Hall sent an appeal to Paxton after Chancellor William McRaven Jr. denied his request for thousands of documents related an admissions investigation by Kroll Associates, Inc. The investigation found that President William Powers Jr. influenced the admission of a handful of students to UT but did not break any official University rules.

McRaven, unanimously backed by the other eight regents, voted to file a brief to the Attorney General’s office last Monday, reacting to Hall’s appeal. The brief contended that the Board could set some limitations on information requests by individual regent and that individual regents are not authorized to appeal to the attorney general in their official capacity, without consent of the Board.

In Paxton's response to Hall’s appeal, he did not require the Board grant Hall access to the documents, but he said access to records is needed for a regent to perform his or her duties.

“While a governmental body may adopt reasonable procedures with regard to the timing, copying, and process for review of records, a ‘governmental body cannot adopt a policy that prevents a member of the body from performing the duties of office,’” Paxton wrote, citing a 1999 Attorney General statement.