AUSTIN, Texas—University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers said he was told that $325,000 in extra compensation he received while dean of the law school was properly authorized at the time even though a newspaper found no evidence that the chancellor ever signed off.
The Austin American-Statesman reported that UT rules would have required then-Chancellor Dan Burck in 2001 to authorize the money that Powers received from a charitable foundation that supports the law school.
The payments were deferred compensation packages that Powers and about 20 professors received if they stayed on the job for specified periods of time. The disclosure of the loans in 2011 sparked a faculty uproar and an investigation by UT System officials, who had not been aware of them.
Records show that Powers’ deferred compensation agreement was approved in 2001 by the university’s president and its chief lawyer. An executive vice chancellor at the system was informed of the agreement, but the newspaper reported that officials could produce no record showing that Burck authorized it.
Burck said Monday that he couldn’t recall being made aware of the agreement at the time and acknowledged that UT policy would have required his consent. But he chalked it up to a likely “technical slip” and said he wouldn’t have balked at authorizing the payments.
Powers was dean of the UT law school before taking over as school president in 2006.
“I was told all of this was OK with everybody that needed to be OK with it,” Powers said. “From my point of view, I had been told that all of the traps had been run.”
University spokesman Gary Susswein said Monday that publicly available documents show that the payments had been vetted with the chancellor’s office.
There have been no suggestions that the foundation’s payments to Powers and law professors broke the law. But a 2012 report by the UT system general counsel concluded that because the payments bypassed the university’s payroll system, salaries were not accurately reported internally or to the public.
The practice fell short of the transparency essential for public employee compensation and could create the impression that recipients are beholden to influences outside their employer, the report said.
All foundation funds are now channeled through the payroll system.