Lawyer for Embattled Regent Makes Case Against Impeachment

In a nine-page letter, a lawyer representing Regent Wallace Hall has told legislators that the regent’s action are “not a basis for impeachment.”

Lawyer for Embattled Regent Makes Case Against Impeachment

Update, 1:45 p.m.: UT-Austin spokesman Gary Susswein defended the University’s admissions policies, cooperation on records requests, and fundraising in response to Stephen Ryan’s letter Friday.

Talking to the Texas Tribune, Susswein also expressed UT’s openness to work with the legislative committee.

The Houston Chronicle noted a critical opinion of Regent Hall’s investigations from fellow regent Robert Stillwell.

“Bill Powers and the other 14 presidents of the institutions in our system are the most important people in the system,” Stillwell said. “Regents don’t contribute nearly as much as these people do. We should be supporting these presidents and not investigating and attacking them.”

Stillwell had previously expressed criticism of the continuing investigation of the UT Law School and law school foundation.

Original post: Even with the legislative session over, some lawmakers are staying in Austin, weighing the possibility of impeachment for one regent accused of “micromanaging” UT-Austin and targeting its president Bill Powers. In a letter dated August 15 and sent to House government transparency committee co-chairs Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) and Dan Flynn (R-Canton), attorney Stephen Ryan outlines what he calls his “initial input” on how to approach the ongoing investigation into Regent Wallace Hall’s actions.

Ryan notes that impeachment of public officials—exceedingly rare in Texas—is reserved for serious wrongdoings, though the state constitution’s language on the matter is broad. Hall has been under fire from powerful legislators like House budget chair Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) for his continued document requests, which Pitts claims only serve the purpose of burdening UT-Austin officials. The transparency committee was charged with considering impeachment by House speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) after Pitts floated up the idea in June.

The letter, obtained by the Texas Tribune and Houston Chronicle, is divided into four main sections that outline the major sources of contention over the regent’s role, centered on Hall’s continued requests for records from UT-Austin, requests the University has called “burdensome.”

The letter also suggests that Hall’s investigative nature is part of a quest for transparency, saying the regent was investigating the possibility of favoritism in faculty compensation and student admissions, failure to respond to records request in a timely manner, and inflated reporting of non-monetary gifts to the University. This month, the University reported its most successful fundraising year in history.

Ryan says that certain unnamed legislators are seeking to “silence” Hall, who he contends is on a successful and transparent quest to improve UT.

“Even Regent Hall’s most vociferous and outspoken critics do not accuse him of abusing his official position for personal gain,” the letter contends. Making the case against impeachment and calling him a “proud Longhorn,” Ryan says Hall “has no political axe to grind.”

The ultimate decision is up to the committee, which is expected to begin in earnest in the coming weeks. Later this month, the UT System Board of Regents will meet in Austin. Traditionally, regents review the performance of UT System presidents prior to their fall meeting. Along with the letter, the regents’ meeting could potentially spotlight tensions between regents and Powers over the direction and administration of UT-Austin.

Read the full text of the letter and its attachments below.

Letter to Transparency Co-Chairs

Photo by Matt Valentine.


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