Texas lawmaker failed to disclose his own clout letter in UT flap

Texas lawmaker failed to disclose his own clout letter in UT flap

AP Photo/Eric Gay

The co-chair of a legislative committee that investigated University of Texas regent Wallace Hall failed to disclose his conflict of interest in his conduct of the investigation: he had written one of the clout letters at issue in the controversy.

When Hall began asking questions about legislators pulling strings to get their unqualified friends and family members into UT, Speaker Joe Straus responded by assigning Reps. Dan Flynn and Carol Alvarado to lead a committee in finding grounds to impeach Hall.

Flynn, however, is one of the lawmakers who tried to pull strings for a family friend, and never disclosed that fact throughout his yearlong investigation, even as the question of legislative influence became the subject of two official investigations and independent media investigations, and ultimately led to the forced resignation of the university’s president, Bill Powers.

Flynn wrote a letter to Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa on behalf of a family friend who was applying to UT; the name of the applicant and the letter’s date are redacted on a copy of the letter that was published Thursday by the Texas Tribune.

The Texas Tribune published 112 pages of correspondence with Cigarroa’s office involving letters of recommendation; five of those letters were from state legislators: Reps. Flynn, Tryon Lewis and Brandon Creighton, and Sens. Carlos Uresti and Mario Gallegos.

A limited inquiry into Powers’ correspondence with legislators regarding 86 applicants found those applicants were four times more likely to be accepted than the general population.

The Tribune didn’t bother to mention Flynn’s letter in its own report. It did mention that Tryon’s letter invokes clout by referring to funding for the university’s engineering program.

The release also included a letter from Regent Steve Hicks to Powers on behalf of an applicant. Hicks is a supporter of Powers.

By Jon Cassidy | Watchdog.org

Contact Jon Cassidy at jon@watchdog.org or @jpcassidy000.

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