Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp is requesting that a controversial vote to extend his contract be pushed back until the August meeting of the Board of Regents, ensuring its newest member will be able to participate.
In a letter to board Chairman Cliff Thomas obtained by The Eagle, Sharp said he hoped pushing back the vote may dispel the "goofy rumors" that pursuing the extension now is an attempt to get it passed before incoming regent Tim Leach can be confirmed.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," Sharp said. "Tim is a dear friend and he has said publicly he is a supporter of the direction we are going. ...I realize you have the votes to do it now, but I think it's better to do so in August just to stop these goofy rumors someone has started."
A class of '82 graduate, Leach is a successful oilman and longtime donor to Texas A&M University. In January, the Midland native was selected as Gov. Greg Abbott's pick to replace outgoing regent Judy Morgan.
When Leach's appointment was announced, the six-year term was expected to begin Feb. 1. His confirmation is still pending with the Texas State Senate.
Sharp said he acknowledges Thomas "had hoped the regents would be confirmed by now, and that's why you set it for this date."
The contract extension is set for a vote at today's Board of Regents meeting in the Memorial Student Center. As proposed, the extension would add three years to Sharp's tenure as chancellor and maintain his current level of compensation.
In an interview with The Eagle, regent Charles Schwartz voiced his support for the move and said he believed it sends a "message of stability" to the faculty, staff and students of the system at a time when there are questions remaining as to what state funding will look like at the end of the current legislative session.
According to The Texas Tribune, while a majority of the regents have voiced support for an extension of Sharp's contract, regents Tony Buzbee and Robert Albritton expressed concerns about the timing of the move.
Sharp's current contract, running through 2020, was renewed in September 2015 along with a $393,000 increase to his base pay, bringing it to $900,000.