LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Amid controversy surrounding Texas Tech University System's Chancellor Bob Duncan's surprise retirement announcement, Governor Greg Abbott began his interview with a statement on Duncan's character.
"I have great respect and admiration for a longtime friend of mine and that is Robert Duncan. I've known him probably for more than 20 years. I want to thank him for his service both to Texas Tech University System as well as his service to the State of Texas. Robert Duncan is a stand up guy; he is a top quality guy. He is a man to be respected and I appreciate his legacy of longtime service to our great state."
When asked if Abbott believed Duncan was treated fairly, he said, "I don't know the details of the process. Obviously, he is a man of great respect and I want to make sure that everything is handled appropriately, but I don't know the details of how it all happened."
We asked Abbott if he had any communication with the Texas Tech University System's Board of Regents or Duncan.
"The only person I've talked to earlier this week was Rick Francis, the chairman of the board, to find out what was going on, where we were, where we were going, things like that."
We asked Abbott if he supported the veterinary school planned for Texas Tech:
"Before the last session began, Kent Hance was at a meeting with me and asked if I supported the vet school. I said,'you bet.' During the course of that session, at the end of it, there was a legislative item that reached my desk for an appropriation for the vet school. Unlike some other items that I vetoed, I signed that item ensuring the vet school got the money it had received. So, yes I have supported the vet school and I will continue to support whatever the mission is of the Texas Tech University System," Abbott said.
Abbott said when deciding who to appoint as a regent, he looks for someone who has attended one of the universities in the system and various types of diversity.
"One is geographic diversity, another is racial diversity, another is gender diversity. So, I am looking to achieve all of those criteria every single time," Abbott said.
We asked Abbott about Lubbock businessman George McMahan who said he was uninvited from the private campaign event after making a statement related to the board of regents' appointment by the governor.
"I feel bad for what happened with the gentleman that we needed to return the check to. This is standard protocol for us. We have lawyers who look at every contribution we receive to make sure their is no legal prohibition about us being able to receive a contribution. We return dozens of contributions every cycle. Because of information that the lawyers on my staff received, they thought it was important to return that particular contribution. It's unfortunate that it seems like there is some sort of controversy with him and there shouldn't be, this is just standard protocol," Abbott said.
McMahan said earlier this month, Kent Hance asked if he would like to be a part of the event's hosting committee, which costs $10,000. McMahan agreed and wrote a check hours before the announcement of Duncan's surprise departure.
A couple of days after that announcement, another television station interviewed McMahan for a statement about Duncan's retirement and how regents get appointed.
"I told her what I've heard from the last 30 years that you have to make a large donation to the governor and I meant to say campaign, but I did not. I was speaking about the governor's office campaign fund in general, not specifically Governor Abbott's," McMahan said.
McMahan said David Whitley, Abbott's chief of staff, called to tell him his statement was patently false and that is not the way the system worked.
McMahan said Whitley told him the governor's office would be returning the check.
"I've really got my feelings hurt over the deal. I think it rather amusing though that people call me for money almost every day and no one has ever sent a check back," McMahan said.
McMahan said he asked if that meant he was uninvited to the event and Whitley said he could still come if he liked, but they would not accept the donation.
"I felt like I got dis-invited. When they didn't take my money, I felt like they dis-invited me even though I probably could have gone," McMahan said.
McMahan said one of the regents called to personally invite him to the event, but McMahan said, "I'm not somebody to go where I'm not wanted."
We asked McMahan if this incident has put a bad taste in his mouth when it comes to Governor Abbott, Texas Tech, and the Texas Tech University System's Board of Regents.
"Not one bit towards the governor, I still think he is doing a good job. I will vote for him and would support him in the future. I still support Texas Tech. This is not Texas Tech's fault. It's not the administration's fault, it's not the staff's fault," McMahan said.
McMahan said he and his wife will continue to donate to the university, but he still has questions about Duncan's departure.
"'I'm not a fan of those five board members," McMahan said. "I personally, and I think the community will agree, I cannot reconcile their love of Texas Tech and firing the chancellor. I can't see how the two mix."