#RegentGate: Donor withdraws proposed $10 million gift to Texas Tech, cites five regents

Former Amarillo mayor Jerry Hodge has notified Texas Tech University System official that he and his wife Margaret are withdrawing a $10 million proposed gift. He did so in an email sent on the morning of September 9.

Hodge provided me with a copy of the email on September 10.

The details of the gift were to be decided with officials in a now-cancelled meeting on September 11.

[UPDATED: The next line in the original story was: “But Hodge told me the general proposal was to provide roughly $3 million for the pharmacy school, including an honorary naming of the school, as well as some $7 million for the proposed veterinarian school.” This was made on what I deemed to be confirmation from Hodge based on my sourcing. However, Hodge denies he made such confirmation. The entire gift proposal, he said in a September 13 interview on OSTX radio, his first radio or TV interview, was for $10 million to the vet school. The $3 million toward the pharmacy school may well have been revenues earned from how the $10 million was invested over a given amount of time. Regardless, it’s clear honorary naming rights to the pharmacy school is what caused the gift proposal to go into executive session on August 10. See agenda below.]

Jerry and Margaret Hodge

In the email, Hodge, who is founder of Maxor National Pharmacy Services and helped bring Tech’s School of Pharmacy about in the 1990s, cites concerns about possible communication between five of Tech regents (the five who reportedly voted to oust former Tech Chancellor Robert Duncan) and Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp. Hodge maintains the gift had only been previously discussed within executive session(s), but Sharp “let him know” he was aware of the gift at a luncheon “about six weeks ago,” just prior to Duncan’s ouster.

UPDATE: In previous social media posts, I first referenced Hodge as the unnamed source who provided me with the email. However, early Tuesday, Hodge contacted me and requested that I publicly disclose his identity, citing concerns that others could be accused of sourcing the email. In the same conversation, Hodge said that he is now “100-percent convinced” a Tech regent did NOT tip off Sharp. He came to this conclusion after “a 20-minute phone call” from Sharp earlier on Tuesday morning, a call in which Sharp explained he learned about the gift from someone who’s not a Tech official at a luncheon mentioned in the email below.

Late Sunday evening, the same day Hodges sent the email, Texas Tribune published a story by Shannon Najmabadi that delved into a chronicling of conflicts between Tech Board of Regents Chairman Rick Francis and Duncan. It was the first news report to cite Hodge and the proposed gift.

THE EMAIL:

Hodge’s email, which has been edited without altering meaning, is as follows:

 

From: Jerry Hodge

Sent: Sunday, September 9, 2018 10:53 AM

To: ‘Kendra Burris’ <kendra.Burris@ttuhsc.edu>

Cc: ‘Margaret Hodge’; ‘Brian Heinrich’

Subject: Tuesday meeting

Kendra,

Margaret and I have been discussing our gift, and the Texas Tech Regents (5 of them).

I must tell you we are not happy at all. I don’t like to be called out of the blue by a reporter about our planned gift, [this] information had to come from an executive session. As you know, Chancellor Duncan is our friend and the reason we considered the gift. 

We were watching the A&M game last night, and we were pulling for Clemson. I said to Margaret, “What are we doing?” We have many Aggie friends (close friends). It is not the institutions, it is the people running both Texas Tech (the five regents) and A&M leadership, that is the reason we are upset.  We are both Texans, and should be for all Texas schools (except when they play Oklahoma).  It is a sad day to me, the turn of events.  I had lunch with Chancellor Sharp about six weeks ago, and he made a statement that let me know [that] he knew about our proposed gift. Again, it had to come from someone within Tech. Who? I can’t believe anyone on the staff would be talking to Sharp. Was it a regent? 

Kendra, this is by far the longest email I have written in my life, but will let you know how upset Margaret and I are.  Since the Regents have not acted on our gift, please accept this as our withdrawal of our offer for the time being. I plan on witting an open letter to the governor with no punches pulled. In short, being appointed regent is not like a federal judge… it is not a life-time appointment. 

I have already said too much, but with all that said, I don’t think we need to meet on Tuesday.  I am not sure what can be accomplished.

If you want to discuss feel free to call (not during the Cowboys game). Home: 806-XXX-XXXX. Margaret’s cell: 806-XXX-XXXX, or I’ll will be in the office in the morning. 

Jerry

PS: You can forward this to whoever you wish… this is mild compared to the open letter.

 

MORE QUESTIONS:

The email helps clarify that the Hodges’ proposed gift was part of the board of regents’ executive session on August 10 (see Part C of agenda here).

Questions still linger about how last month’s action by regents could legally transpire behind closed doors under the Texas Open Meeting Act. But Regents’ Rules and state statutes do allow for gifts to be discussed, especially when putting names on buildings are involved.

However, based on Hodge’s email, that the gift was not acted upon on August 10– the same day in which five regents would later, behind closed doors, decide against Duncan. An ouster Francis would later justify (repeatedly) as a budgetary disagreement of roughly $5 million over a four-year period– a figure that was nearly half of the Hodges’ gift proposal.

Which leads one to wonder: surely that executive session included conversation about the vet school portion of $7 million. But was the vet school portion in any way opposed by Francis, or any other regent, behind those doors?

If so, further #RegentGate clouds could gather around the regents, Francis in particular, regarding respective motives over the past two years.

As Hodge told me Tuesday morning, shortly after becoming convinced that none of the five regents or any Tech officials leaked to Sharp, “none of this changes my position on them.”

He thinks the five should resign– and that’s the mild version.

 

TEXAS TECH’S STATEMENT:

Monday evening, Tech Interim Chancellor Tedd Mitchell provided the following statement in response to our report that the Hodges had withdrawn their proposed gift:

“Jerry Hodge has dedicated his life to the betterment of Amarillo, the Texas Panhandle and the entire state of Texas.

Among his many civic endeavors, he was instrumental in helping establish our nationally ranked School of Pharmacy in Amarillo, working to garner the community support and critical funding needed to turn a big vision into reality. 

I am forever grateful to Jerry and Margaret and remain committed to working with them on both the Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine and School of Pharmacy.”

 

[NOTE: This story has been updated throughout the week of September 9-14.]

Jay Leeson is the founder of Other Side of Texas. You can hear the radio program by the same name each weekday 5-6pm CST on AM 580 Lubbock, streaming at OtherSideofTexas.com. Each episode is posted as a podcast, subscribe at Apple podcasts.

RELATED:

Click here to read about Gov. Greg Abbott’s apparent involvement with Tech’s Board of Regents from late 2016 until today

Click here to read about Tech Board Chairman Rick Francis’ financial interests in Tech’s proposed downtown El Paso

Click here to read about how documents prove Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan was forced to retire

Click here to read Texas Tech’s #RegentGate and the Questions that Linger: Part 1

Click here to read Texas Tech’s #RegentGate and the Questions that Linger: Part 2

[Feature image via KVII Amarillo]
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