This week, a Texas House committee found that there were significant grounds to impeach embattled UT regent Wallace Hall, initializing proceedings for “what could be the first removal of a governor-appointed official in state history.”
The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations approved the motion in a vote of 7-1. Hall has come under fire for his efforts to remove UT Austin president Bill Powers in 2013. Last month, the House Select committee released a report finding that Hall “abused the powers of his office and may have broken the law in his campaign to force the UT Regents to vote to fire UT President Bill Powers.”
The offenses listed in the report were found to be impeachable offenses, and it now appears that the House Select committee is setting the wheels in motion for impeachment to happen.
Read more about Hall's alleged crimes and the response from some at UT after the jump. One of the main accusations against Hall is that he initiated a series of costly and overly burdensome open records requests in a “witch hunt” to get rid of Bill Powers. He's also been accused of leaking confidential student information and bullying UT administrators to try and change their testimony against Powers. As the Dallas Morning News writes:
At issue is whether Hall, a Dallas businessman appointed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011, abused the power of his office in his investigations of University of Texas President Bill Powers through massive open records requests that swamped university and system officials, and whether he violated state and federal student privacy laws or harmed the school's reputation.
Powers testified before the committee in December, saying his battles with Hall had done “significant harm to our reputation in the academic world nationally and internationally.”
While impeachment measures move forward, many around the state are calling on Hall to resign. The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, which is home to many top UT donors released a statement calling for Hall's resignation, as did Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio).
In addition, The Daily Texan published an editorial this week calling on Hall to resign for the sake of UT and the state of Texas. The editorial called out Hall's ties to Rick Perry, and Perry's corrupt attempt to maneuver the UT Board of Regents to do his bidding. Said The Daily Texan:
While no one can be blamed for Hall's actions but Hall himself, one cannot ignore the influence of Perry in the regent's political maneuvering. An investigative report conducted by Rusty Hardin, special counsel to the committee, details both what Hardin identifies as the regent's impeachable offenses as well as the extent to which the governor, a known opponent of Powers, has attempted to effect his own personal agenda through Hall. According to the report, “A number of witnesses interviewed in the course of this investigation opined that a well-known goal of Governor Perry – and, by extension, his appointee Hall – is to terminate Powers as UT Austin President.”
This editorial board applauds the findings of the House committee, and strongly urges them to recommend full articles of impeachment when the committee comes back into session on May 21.
In the meantime, we strongly hope that Hall resigns before any more harm is done, both to this University and this State. We stand with state Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, in requesting Hall's resignation so the past few years' drama can finally come to an end.
For his part, Perry has unsurprisingly said he supports Hall.
The House Select committee is scheduled to vote on articles of impeachment later this month. If approved, the articles would go to the full House for consideration. If they pass the House, the Senate would officially conduct an impeachment trial.
Wallace Hall's impeachment certainly appears to be getting more likely. Now, the question remains whether Hall will subject himself to trial, or if he will save the UT system a lot of trouble and resign.