Governor Bill Owens, deposed

February 17, 2009

Bill Owens was recently deposed by Ward Churchill’s attorney, David Lane. From the Rocky Mountain News:

Former Gov. Bill Owens said in a deposition it’s a good thing the University of Colorado ignored him when he urged that professor Ward Churchill be fired over a controversial essay.

“I’m glad that the university, its counsel, and others who had a chance over a period of years to look at the law and look at the case didn’t follow my advice and, in fact, chose to ignore it,” Owens said in the deposition, taken one week ago today.

Had CU fired Churchill for the essay – as Owens wanted – the school would have violated Churchill’s free-speech rights, Owens said.

CU fired Churchill in 2007 because a faculty committee concluded he plagarized and lied about historical facts in his writings.

Churchill maintains he was fired for writing that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were a response to a long history of U.S. abuses. He is suing to get his job back.

Churchill’s attorney, David Lane, on Thursday released a copy of the deposition to the Rocky Mountain News.

“The real story here is that the governor admitted he violated Ward Churchill’s rights,” Lane said. “In his deposition, he swore that he was going to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, but he gave CU advice to violate the Constitution.”

Owens countered that Churchill is trying to claim he was fired because of “pressure from the top” but he won’t be able to prove his case. In the deposition, Owens said “the faculty and the University of Colorado ignored me most of the time.” He also noted the regents are elected and he had no power over them.

 . . .

Lane suggested CU launched its investigation of Churchill’s academic record after Owens talked about reducing the school’s budget.

“When you’re saying ‘Do something about Ward Churchill or we’re going to look at your budget, isn’t that a threat?” Lane asked.

Owens said no and pointed out that the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee sets the budget.

“We didn’t try to reduce the university’s budget. And, in fact, the university’s budget during this time was very probably increasing,” Owens said.

When Lane suggested Owens tried to cut the funding to Churchill’s department, the governor said that was incorrect.

I count three lies off the top of my head:

  • Bill Owens didn’t just encourage Ward Churchill’s resignation in interviews; he released a formal statement to that effect.
  • Bill Owens most certainly did threaten the Ethnic Studies budget.  
  • When Owens “pointed out that the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee sets the budget”, he’s being remarkably disingenuous.  As is Lynn Bartels from the Rocky Mountain News, though that’s to be expected.  Yeah, the Joint Budget Committee sets the budget, but it’s subject to final review and revision by the Governor, who has line item veto power.  Something which makes Owen’s claim that the University of Colorado pays no attention to him just about laughable.

These are three quick points off of the top of my head.  I can only imagine how much fun David Lane is having punching holes in Bill Owen’s deposition.  I’m no legal scholar, but it seems to me that this kind of out-and-out lying on the part of the then-Governor has to brutally undermine CU’s defense.


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