Regents vote Powers has no conflict of interest working for law firm, university

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On Thursday afternoon, the UT System Board of Regents voted to allow former president William Powers Jr. to work for both the University and a law firm.

Jackson Walker L.L.P., a Dallas-based law firm, agreed on Aug. 3 to let Powers join their Austin office as counsel. Powers is currently a distinguished teaching professor at the UT School of Law. Regent Wallace Hall raised concerns about Powers’ conflict of interest working for UT while working for a law firm that is a vendor for the University.

Dan Sharphorn, System vice chancellor and general counsel, said Powers working for the law firm would not be an issue.

“[Powers] is counsel to the firm,” Sharphorn said. “He will not be sharing the firm’s name, [and] he will not be involved in directing UT System or UT Austin legal work to the firm. The firm will not engage him as a provider to the UT System or UT Austin.”

Despite approval from the rest of the board, Hall still voted against the agenda.

The board also approved Thursday a $16.9 billion dollar budget for the 2016 fiscal year to fund UT’s 14 institutions. Additionally, $30 million will be funded for the Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STAR) program to attract and retain the highest quality professors.

Dale Klein, associate vice chancellor for research, said this program helps meet goals for all of the System’s universities.

“This has really been an excellent program,” Klein said. “It really helps all of our universities recruit the talent and objective of teaching these bright young minds.”

The Board also agreed to provide $15 million to Lynda Chin, associate vice chancellor and chief innovation officer for health transformation, who is working on addressing the problem of diabetes and obesity in the Rio Grande Valley.