Posted: Apr 4, 2013 7:37 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - The Montana Senate has refused to confirm former U.S. Representative Pat Williams (D-MT) as a member of the Board of Regents.
In a 26 to 23 vote, the resolution to confirm Williams failed to pass.
Senators who voted against Williams say that his comments in a New York Times article calling some members of the Grizzly football team "thugs" were inappropriate.
Williams' supporters say he is overly qualified for the position and his ability to speak the truth is one of his greatest assets.
Now Governor Steve Bullock will be forced to appoint someone else to the post.
That appointment will also be subject to approval by the Senate.
(March 20, 2013) Governor Steve Bullock has recommended that Jeffrey Krauss, Joseph Thiel, and former U.S. Representative Pat Williams be appointed to oversee the Montana University System.
The Senate Education Committee heard public comment on the qualifications of these men on Wednesday, with the bulk of the testimony focused on Williams.
When asked in February by the New York Times about allegations of criminal actions by some UM athletes, Williams said that "we've had sex assaults, vandalism, beatings by the football players. The university has recruited thugs for its football team, and the thuggery has got to stop."
After those comments, two petitions began circulating online: one in support of Williams and one asking the Senate to deny his appointment.
Williams and 15 other supporters addressed those comments before the committee on Thursday.
Willaims said, "The reporter at the New York Times never asked me about the team, the coaches, the athletic directors. He asked me about six players who have been accused of assault, burglary, beatings, drug use, DUI, and rape. And I called them what I called them."
Supporters say the Senate should not focus on those comments but instead the qualifications Williams has in education.
Meanwhile, four people stood up to oppose Williams' appointment, including former UM Vice President Jim Foley; opponents said that his comments were hurtful and inaccurate and someone overseeing the University System should not be saying those things.
Foley said, "The statements made in there, by my friend Pat, in my judgment, were both callous and injurious both to the citizens of this state, and to the thousands of UM student athletes, and UM alumni around this country. In my view, none of it was necessary, and the timing in my judgment made it a bit more harmful."
The Senate committee will vote on the appointments in the coming week and if they pass, it will go to the full Senate for confirmation.