Mon December 16, 2013
UT Regent Wallace Hall Declines to Speak with Lawmakers
UPDATE, 12/16/13: For months, Texas House lawmakers have heard from attorneys for the U.T system and the Board of Regents regarding accusations that Regent Wallace Hall overstepped his authority as a state-appointed official by requesting thousands of documents in what some have deemed a “witch hunt” to terminate UT at Austin President Bill Powers. Hall is also accused of distributing students sensitive and private information. In early December Hall and his attorney agreed to have the embattled Regent testify before the House’s Select Committee on the Transparency of Governmental Agency Operations. This week, Hall’s attorney sent a letter noting his client would not appear.
Canton Republican Rep. Dan Flynn is the co-chair of the committee overseeing the possible removal of Hall. He says, “It’s very disappointing to me that he and his attorney do not understand or do not care to observes the rules and procedures of the Texas House of Representatives and have decided they are not going to appear to testify.”
Flynn says, "This is a man who said he wanted to say his story, he had some witnesses for us, to date the testimony collected by the committee and provide vital information to complete our investigation.”
Hall’s attorney Allan Van Fleet reasoned that decision with a motion passed by lawmakers that would refer specific issues in the case for a possible criminal investigation. Van Fleet writes, the only sound legal counsel is to caution Regent Hall against voluntary testimony before the Committee. Lawmakers will hear from UT at Austin President Bill Powers and UT System’s Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa on Wednesday. Hall was scheduled to testify on Thursday.
Last week, the University of Texas Board of Regents announced UT-Austin President Bill Powers would not be terminated despite strained relationships, but then Longhorn Football’s head coach Mack Brown announced he was resigning after 16-seasons, citing problems with politics at the schools.
Now the attention turns to UT Regent Wallace Hall, who has been the center of a investigation as to whether he overstepped his authority by requesting thousands of school documents and emails, and allegedly jeopardizing a student’s privacy. San Antonio Democratic Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer said before from they hear from Regent Hall at his impeachment hearing, the legislature needs the full cooperation from UT System.
“There are a number of document requests that have been made to the University of Texas System, [and] they have for the entire duration of this investigation been withholding and obstructing the production of those documents," Martinez-Fischer said.
"Quite frankly I’m not ready to hear Wallace Hall’s presentation until I know that every available piece of evidence is before this committee,” he continued. “Just like I look at any opportunity to prepare for a witness, I will not be prepared until the UT system produces the documents that they are required to do so under the law."
Martinez-Fischer said the Texas House’s Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations requested those documents at the beginning of their investigation of Regent Wallace Hall and his alleged “witch hunt” to terminate UT President Bill Powers. If the legislature recommends the impeachment of Hall, it will be the first time such a move has ever happened at the school. Hall was expected to speak before the House Committee this Thursday at the State Capitol, but has issued a statement to the legislative committee declining lawmakers invitation to speak before them in his own defense.