After months of controversy surrounding the hiring of Rick O’Donnell, former director of Colorado’s higher education department, as a special adviser to the UT Board of Regents, the UT System reached a settlement with O’Donnell to avoid a lawsuit against it, according to The Daily Texan.
Soon after the System hired O’Donnell in February at a $200,000 salary, concern grew regarding the hiring process, O’Donnell’s salary and his views on academic research. O’Donnell’s employment was terminated in April.
As part of the settlement agreement, the System sent O’Donnell a glowing letter signed by Regents Chairman Gene Powell and has agreed to pay him $70,000. Neither the System nor O’Donnell has admitted fault.
But the situation could have been almost entirely avoided had the System been more transparent in its hiring process. O’Donnell’s radical views on research and his affiliation with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a nonprofit conservative think tank, understandably drew considerable controversy. Additionally, why the System agreed to pay O’Donnell an exorbitant six-figure salary amid significant budget cuts and hiring freezes is bewildering.
Now the System is paying $70,000 to erase its mistake. Where will the money come from? After repeated unreturned calls to UT System spokesman Anthony de Bruyn, we still don’t know. We just hope taxpayers aren’t footing the bill.