The cavalcade of objections coming from those who have close relations with Bill Powers has grown increasingly weak and silent as the embattled UT President’s impending termination draws near. The protests peaked yesterday with House Select Committee Chairmen Dan Flynn and Carol Alvarado illegally directing the UT Board of Regents not to move forward with firing Powers.

But last night UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa broke his silence, explaining that Powers had been insubordinate since before Cigarroa took the Chancellor’s job in 2009 (and long before big, bad Wallace Hall was appointed to the Board of Regents in February of 2011).

Cigarroa’s confirmation that Powers’ working relationship with his employer is strained beyond relief was followed by a compelling editorial by former UT Board of Regents Chairman Charles Miller that chronicled many of the problems with Powers’ job performance. Miller was one of George W. Bush’s closest advisors on higher education. He was appointed to the UT Board of Regents by Bush, and presided over the University’s massive 2003 tuition increase. Even Miller thinks Powers is out of control.

(The response to Miller’s piece was handled by former UT pitcher John Curtiss.)

By far the weakest defense of Powers came from Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, who argued “what’s the difference between Oct. 30 and May 30?” (Powers has argued that he should be allowed to stay through May 2015.) It’s that attitude that might explain why voters dumped Dewhurst in favor of strong conservative leadership from State Senator Dan Patrick.

Powers’ camp is growing silent because it is quickly becoming apparent that defending Bill Powers means defending some indefensible behavior. In April it was reported that Powers wasn’t just insubordinate, he actually leveled some undetermined threat at Cigarroa in the run-up to a high-stakes Board of Regents meeting.

When the Texas House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations released its discredited report by attorney Rusty Hardin, there were a number of salacious accusations buried in one of the exhibits to the report.

In two anonymous letters to Regent Wallace Hall, variously from “Citizens Concerned for UT” located at 100 Congress Ave. in Austin and from “Concerned Citizens of UT” from PO Box 5250 in Dallas, Powers is accused of mismanagement and ethics concerns. The author of the letters demonstrates an intimate knowledge of the UT development offices and notes a number of clashes between Powers and the development office, arguing that UT’s fundraising success has been “in spite of Powers and not because of him.”

Powers is accused of surrounding himself with “yes men” including the (accused) former mistress of a Texas state legislator and an unqualified consultant connected to friends of Powers. In the letters, Powers is accused of taking a $600,000 position on an outside board given to him by Kenneth Jastrow in return for special attention paid to Jastrow’s concerns.

These accusations were followed by a compelling piece written pseudonymously by a UT faculty member calling themselves “Publius Audax” that laid out ten reasons why Powers should step down. In the piece, Powers is accused of hindering affordability while persecuting conservative and moderate viewpoints amongst the faculty.

It is clear that Cigarroa and the Regents have allowed the problem of Bill Powers’ insubordination to fester for entirely too long. This UT alum hopes that era comes to an end on Thursday and that the Regents can move forward with reforming the damage that has been caused to our University over the last decade.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.


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