State Budget Chief Moves to Impeach UT Regent


The Republican House appropriations chair is working on a resolution to impeach UT System regent Wallace Hall. Multiple sources reported Thursday that Waxahachie state representative Jim Pitts wants to impeach the UT regent for ongoing interference in the affairs of UT-Austin.

According to Pitts, renewed records requests from Regent Hall last week pushed the powerful House representative to the point of bringing impeachment procedures. Hall’s latest requests, made both as a regent and as a private citizen, asked for emails and Post-it notes from Powers’ office regarding the relationship between UT and the Law School Foundation.

“I renew my call of witch-hunt,” Pitts told the Dallas Morning News, referring to his previous claims that some UT regents, including Hall, were neglecting their duties in order to pursue the removal of UT-Austin president Bill Powers.

Rumors have spread since at least 2011 that massive document requests and investigations into the flagship campus were part of a coordinated plot by certain regents to have Powers fired. After an emotional display of support for Powers on the floor of the Senate in February, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House speaker Joe Straus reinstated a legislative committee to oversee higher education governance. Senate higher education chair Kel Seliger, Republican of Amarillo, along with more than 10 other senators, also introduced legislation that would prevent regents from directly firing a university president. Despite passage by large bipartisan majorities, the bill was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry.

Perry has appointed every member of UT’s governing board, and concerns were raised during the session of undue influence from the governor on regents Hall, Alex Cranberg, and Brenda Pejovich. Those three regents, along with Chairman Gene Powell, say their motivations are to fulfill their fiduciary and statutory duties, not to remove Powers. The governor appointed two new regents, James Hildebrand and Ernest Aliseda and re-appointed vice chair Paul Foster last month. The Senate confirmed all three nominees.

Pitts has two ways to approach the impeachment of a regent, either through a resolution signed by 76 House members, which would trigger a Senate impeachment trial, or through a joint committee to consider the impeachment. The Texas Tribune reports that Pitts is currently attempting to gather the required signatures. The Texas Constitution allows impeachment proceedings to continue even if the current 30-day special session ends on schedule Tuesday. Impeaching regents is extremely rare.

Regent Hall declined to comment.

Photo courtesy Daniel via Flickr Creative Commons 


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