BU reform group wants legal fee answers; sets scandal cost at $220M

(Baylor University photo/file)
(Baylor University photo/file)(KWTX)
Published: Feb. 23, 2017 at 6:47 PM CST
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A reform group formed in the wake of Baylor’s sexual assault scandal is demanding to know how much the university is paying a Texas defense attorney and another law firm the school has hired to continue the work of implementing recommendations from the Pepper Hamilton firm, which investigated the university’s handling of sexual assault reports.

The university responded that it’s defending itself “appropriately in litigation” and that it’s on a sound financial footing.

Bears for Leadership Reform said in a press release Thursday it wants to know how much the school is paying the Philadelphia law firm Cozen O’Connor and Houston defense attorney Rusty Hardin.

Baylor hired Cozen O’Connor to continue its work of implementing the 105 Pepper Hamilton recommendations after Pepper Hamilton’s two lead investigators for Baylor, left for the new firm.

Hardin was hired to represent the University and the regents individually named in a slander lawsuit filed by fired head football coach Art Briles, which was later dropped.

Hardin is still representing the school in the ongoing civil case of fired director of football operations, Colin Shillinglaw.

“By most estimates, the events of the last year will cost Baylor University at least $223 million – not to mention the immeasurable damage to our school’s reputation and the value of our degrees,” Bears for Leadership Reform President John Eddie Williams.

““With $223 million, Baylor could provide 1,408 four-year, full-tuition scholarships and over three years of rent-free housing to all undergraduate students,” Williams said.

Bears for Leadership Reform says that Hardin frequently charges hourly fees in excess of $1,100, adding that In November 2013, he charged more than $1,300 to produce a single email for the University of Texas System and a legislative committee investigating former UT Regent Wallace Hall.

“We are concerned that the interests of Baylor students, faculty and alumni are being sold out so the Board of Regents won’t have to disclose damaging revelations about its own failed leadership,” Williams said.

Hardin has represented many high profile clients, including Texas megachurch co-pastor Victoria Osteen, the estate of Texas billionaire J. Howard Marshall II, which he defended against claims by one-time Mexia resident turned reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith, and former major league pitcher Roger Clemens, who was acquitted of perjury charges after telling Congress that he didn’t use performance-enhancing drugs.

A spokesperson for Baylor issued a statement late Thursday defending the university.

“Baylor University and our volunteer regent leadership will take reasonable steps to address concerns that have been raised over the past year, and we will defend ourselves appropriately in litigation,” the statement said.

“(Interim Baylor President Dr. David) Garland stressed the current financial strength of the university following last Friday’s Board of Regents meeting,” the statement said.