UH System refuses to release requested UHV records

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

March 30, 2014 at 11 p.m.
Updated March 30, 2014 at 10:31 p.m.

The University of Houston System is refusing to release records that might shed some light on what led to the ouster of the University of Houston-Victoria president.

The Victoria Advocate has requested the minutes from recent meetings of the Faculty Senate, the Faculty Council and the Academic Council, three university governance bodies.

Within the 10-day period required by the Texas open-records law, the UH System released Faculty Council and Faculty Senate minutes from 2013 but none from this year. The System also has not released any Academic Council minutes.

On March 14, the UHV Faculty Senate gave former UHV President Phil Castille a vote of no-confidence. A week earlier, the Faculty Council also debated a no-confidence vote but tabled the motion.

The week after the Faculty Senate vote, Castille resigned.

Richard Bonnin, UH System spokesman, said the meeting minutes are in draft form and have yet to be finalized.

"I have been advised that some of the documents you requested are in draft form and have not yet been certified as official," Bonnin wrote in an email. "In the legal opinion of our general counsel's office, which evaluates open records requests, draft documents are not part of the public record."

However, Joel White, a Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas attorney, said all public documents, whether they are in draft form or not, must be provided.

"The fact that they're in draft form is not an excuse for not providing them," White said.

UHV provost Jeffrey Cass said the documents must be finalized before released to keep the records accurate. Before his ouster, Castille had removed Cass from his position. He was reinstated as provost last week by Acting President Wayne Beran.

"I wouldn't want to put something on the web unless it had been approved," Cass said.

By law, the UH System is required to either release requested documents or seek an opinion from the Texas attorney general's office.

By the Friday deadline, no opinion had been sought by the UH System, according to Lauren Bean, Texas Attorney General's Office deputy communications director.

In a recent request made to the Harris County Appraisal District, the attorney general ruled Jan. 29, that "the minutes of a public meeting of a governmental body are public records when entered, are public in whatever form they exist, and public access may not be delayed until formal approval is obtained."



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