UT-Memphis chancellor to pay for improvements to residence

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The chancellor of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center agreed Monday to reimburse the university for decorating expenses to his official residence that may have bypassed the university's spending procedure.

Chancellor Bill Owen and UT President John Petersen announced the decision in a joint statement after a "frank discussion about accountability and public service."

Owen reportedly spent more than $28,000 on improvements - including a plasma TV, shelving, lighting and extensive rewiring - to a $1.3 million house the university bought last August after his wife, Alice, complained an existing $1 million chancellor's residence that had just undergone a $500,000 renovation was unacceptable.

The spending revelations quickly drew comparisons to the excesses that forced former UT President John Shumaker to resign in 2003.

"While I have enormous regard for Chancellor Owen's intellect, experience and talent, I have discussed with him the need to restore and rebuild public confidence in the institution in light of recent events," Petersen said.

Owen, who became chancellor only a year ago, said he would "take full responsibility for past decisions I have taken as Health Science Center chancellor and for what has occurred as a result of those decisions."