The chairwoman of Texas Southern University’s Board of Regents formally resigned on Tuesday as the state Senate considered Gov. Rick Perry’s request to remove her from the panel.
Belinda Griffin’s resignation came four days after she wrote Perry on behalf of the entire board, saying they would resign when he named a replacement board.
Perry rejected that offer, saying he wanted her to tender her immediate resignation. He asked the Senate to begin removal proceedings against Griffin, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst had signaled that he was going to act on that request on Tuesday.
State Sen. Rodney Ellis says Dewhurst agreed to delay the process until he and some other lawmakers could talk to Griffin and persuade her to resign.
“Clearly the votes would have been there to remove Ms. Griffin,” says Ellis, a Democrat from Houston. “We appreciate her going ahead and resigning.”
Perry spokesman Ted Royer says the governor’s office has also received resignation letters from the eight other regents.
The governor plans to nominate five new board members later this week to serve while Perry and the Legislature work toward a long-term solution, Royer says. He appointed two new regents in February, but their nominations have not been confirmed by the Senate. It wasn’t immediately clear if they would end up on the new five-member board.
Last month, Perry called for a state takeover of the historically Black university, whose former president allegedly used school funds to decorate her home. A state audit also reported financial woes and shoddy record keeping, and the state’s higher education commissioner said the school didn’t follow rules dealing with construction projects.
After members of the Legislative Black Caucus complained that a takeover could jeopardize the university’s accreditation and thus its students’ ability to receive federal financial aid, Perry agreed to work with them on a compromise plan.
A compromise bill filed last week would allow the governor to dissolve a board of regents in times of financial or administrative crisis and appoint a smaller board to institute a reform plan.
Griffin previously said that the board had met only once since her peers voted her as chairwoman in February and that the problems at TSU would take more than a few weeks to address.
“I’m not sure we’ve been given the opportunity to turn things around,” she has said. “To expect immediate fixes is probably not realistic.”
The Senate Finance Committee is expected to meet on Monday to consider the bill, says Ellis, its Senate sponsor. Lawmakers are working on some tweaks to give the Legislature a say in the dissolution of the board, he says.
Some members of the Black caucus have said they oppose giving Perry more power over TSU.
Royer says Perry’s main focus is on stopping “the rampant fiscal mismanagement that has endangered the future of the university and wasted untold sums of tax dollars.”
“It cannot be business as usual in the long term at that university,” Royer says.
— Associated Press
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