Tensions High as Possibility of Regent Impeachment Looms

Tensions Remain as Possibility of Regent Impeachment Looms

Another page was written in the ongoing saga between Texas legislators and UT System regents this week, when the Board of Regents met at the same time as a House committee charged with considering the impeachment of Regent Wallace Hall. Media reports paint an insightful picture of the simultaneous meetings.

The Texas House government transparency committee deviated from their schedule Wednesday, holding an organizational meeting in the Texas Capitol’s agricultural museum at 11:40 a.m. rather than 2 p.m. Just blocks away, UT regents met to discuss the guiding principles of a new South Texas university and name UT-Austin’s new Latin American law center after Texas Exes president-elect Kay Bailey Hutchison, LLB ’67, BA ’92, Life Member, Distinguished Alumna, among other business.

Texas Monthly‘s Paul Burka published a transcript of the House committee’s rescheduled meeting, and focused on the discussion of the process and legality of impeaching a regent. Though much is unknown about the process, it is clear that the House would theoretically bring impeachment hearings, and the Senate would conduct a trial. The members of the transparency committee are under a gag order regarding their work on impeachment.

Jeff Archer, chief legislative counsel of the Legislative Council, said there is “no clear model or procedures” regarding impeachment and the committee must “sort out how to do it.”

Rep. Martinez Fischer expressed concern that the committee lacked the resources necessary for a thorough investigation with sufficient staff, subpoena power, sergeants-at-arms, possible sequestration of witnesses, depositions, and access to legal documents/pleadings both in Texas and out-of-state. The members discussed Regent Hall’s omissions on his regent application, perjury, focusing on the relevant issues, the possible subcommittee, the perception of bias by the committee and other topics.

The Austin American-Statesman‘s Ralph Haurwitz noted that regents chose not to acknowledge the impending impeachment procedures at their meeting.

There was a surreal quality to the meeting—not for what was said, but for what wasn’t said: No one mentioned the unusual development or the uncertain future of Regent Wallace Hall Jr.

Earlier in the day, the Texas House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations met to begin planning its investigation of Hall, who has been criticized by legislators for not disclosing certain litigation and bankruptcies on his application to become a regent and for demanding massive sets of documents from the Austin flagship.

Asked if the Board of Regents can do its business effectively with one of its members under investigation, Chairman Gene Powell replied: “Sure. We did so today, and we will continue to do so.”

AP’s Jim Vertuno reported that any discussion of impeachment at the regents meeting would have happened in private, and pointed to an odd dynamic of welcoming two new regents while a third is under investigation.

The board was scheduled to meet for about three hours to discuss plans for a new state university in south Texas and get updates from the recent legislative sessions. But any discussion of the House impeachment investigation launched against regent Wallace Hall, of Dallas, was expected to take place behind closed doors when the board retreated into executive session.

Board Chairman Gene Powell, who has not publicly commented on the investigation, did not mention the probe in his brief welcoming remarks that noted newly confirmed regents Ernest Aliseda, of McAllen, and Jeff Hildebrand, of Houston.

The UT board will meet again in Austin on August 21 and 22. The House transparency committee will reconvene on July 15.

Photo courtesy Matthew Valentine.

 

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