The University of Texas at Austin is looking into an accusation that state Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, sent sexually explicit material to a graduate student, according to the Austin American-Statesman in a Tuesday report that cited unnamed UT officials. A source with knowledge of the matter confirmed to The Texas Tribune that an investigation has been opened.
A spokesperson for Schwertner said the lawmaker "categorically denies knowledge of" the allegation. A UT-Austin spokesperson said "the university does not discuss ongoing investigations." The Statesman has not seen the materials, which reportedly include a graphic photo and text message that were sent to the student after she met Schwertner at an on-campus event.
Tom Holloway, the Schwertner spokesperson, said in a statement that the senator "only became aware of this allegation when contacted by the media late this afternoon. The Senator is eager to cooperate with the University of Texas and hopes to make clear he played no part in the behavior described.”
Gary Susswein, the UT-Austin spokesperson, said that "the University of Texas takes all allegations of wrongdoing seriously and encourages members of the campus community to report them immediately. We strive to investigate complaints thoroughly and quickly while respecting the confidentiality of students and employees who file complaints and those accused of wrongdoing. UT is strongly committed to fostering a safe campus environment and to providing needed support and resources to victims."
In a statement Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he was "deeply concerned about the serious allegations" and "had no advance knowledge of the inquiry until I read about it in the news report."
“I was also concerned yesterday to see that numerous University of Texas officials spoke to the media, potentially jeopardizing the integrity of a serious investigation. I am calling on the university to complete their inquiry in a professional manner, protecting the privacy rights of both parties," Patrick said. “The Texas Senate is awaiting the conclusion of the investigation and expects a full report on this matter.”
Last year, two of Schwertner's fellow senators were also accused of sexual misconduct. Democratic state Sens. Carlos Uresti of San Antonio and Borris Miles of Houston, who faced allegations of harassment and assault, both denied the allegations. Uresti resigned his seat this year after he was convicted of 11 felonies, including fraud and money laundering.
Alexa Ura and Jolie McCullough contributed reporting.
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