With the end of the special session approaching, an influential lawmaker is moving ahead with a plan to remove controversial UT regent Wallace Hall.
The chairman of the House appropriations committee is moving forward with his quest to impeach a UT regent.
Jim Pitts, the Waxahachie Republican, filed a resolution Monday calling for the creation of a special committee on impeachment to consider whether Regent Wallace Hall deserves the boot.
Pitts has been among the most vocal legislators concerned that some UT regents, Hall chief among them, were on “witch hunts” to oust UT-Austin president Bill Powers. Hall’s repeated requests for information from UT-Austin have irked legislators, many of whom claim he is either micromanaging the campus or looking for dirt or both. During the regular session, Pitts attempted to hamstring the ability of some regents to micromanage UT institutions by adding punitive amendments to the state budget.
The subsequent revelation that Hall failed to disclose pertinent information in his application to become a UT regent further strained his relationship with legislators. Although Hall has since provided the information, Pitts at least seems to think it too little, too late.
Hall “may have obtained [his] office through misrepresentation of material facts regarding his experience and qualifications in a manner that violates the penal laws of this state,” the resolution reads. “Mr. Hall, through ongoing concealment of that misrepresentation, may have continued to violate the public trust and demonstrate continuing unfitness to hold office throughout his service on the board of regents.”
The rest of the resolution lays out Pitts’ main concerns: that Hall may have abused his office “by making numerous unreasonably burdensome, wasteful, and intrusive requests for information”; “exhibited behavior that calls into question his fitness for office”; and “violated the duties and responsibilities of his office.” Earlier this month, two of Hall’s fellow regents wrote to board chairman Gene Powell, expressing concern which Hall’s behavior, which they believe to be detrimental to the UT System.
Through a UT System spokeswoman, Hall declined to comment, but in a recent interview with Texas Monthly, Hall argued that one man’s micromanaging is another man’s due diligence. When it comes to the investigation of the UT Law School and its forgivable-loan program, Hall said the Board has never gotten a full examination of the facts, even from its own general counsel. The attorney general is now investigating the matter.
Up next for Pitts’ resolution is that it must be brought to the floor. There’s no telling if or when that might happen before the special session ends tomorrow. The House is adjourned until 1 p.m. Tuesday. There may also be another special session coming.
If the House manages to create the special committee on impeachment, the speaker would appoint seven members and a chair. That committee would have to recommend impeachment and the full House vote on it for the matter to make it to the Senate, where any official impeachment trial would take place.
Were Hall impeached, it would be an exceedingly rare event for the state. In 2007, Gov. Rick Perry told the state Senate that he wanted controversial Texas Southern University chair Belinda Griffin removed, though Griffin chose to retire. A preliminary review suggested that no UT System regent had ever been impeached.
Photo by Marsha Miller courtesy The University of Texas at Austin.