Impeachment proceedings against UT regent could have been avoided

Posted Tuesday, May. 13, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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A committee in the Texas House of Representatives Monday took a major step toward an unprecedented action in this state’s history: impeachment of an appointed official, a member of the University of Texas Board of Regents.

The 7-1 vote by the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations could mean that articles of impeachment against Regent Wallace Hall could be drawn up later this month, leading to a trial in the Texas Senate.

Hall, appointed to the board by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011, has waged an aggressive campaign against UT-Austin President Bill Powers, demanding reams of documents through open records requests. Among the accusations against him are violations of student privacy laws and harming the university’s reputation, The Associated Press reported.

There is no doubt that the Dallas businessman has been a distraction, and Powers testified before the committee that the ongoing battle has done “significant harm to our reputation in the academic world nationally and internationally.”

While Hall is correct in saying that as a board member he has a fiduciary responsibility to question actions by administrators, his aggressive methods have been an impediment to the institution which undoubtedly would be better off without him.

The question is, how did this problem reach the level of impeachment by the Legislature? The answer is that Hall, the governor and the board of regents allowed it by their inaction.

Ideally, Hall should resign, and permit the university and the UT system to move on. The governor, seeing the harm already done, should have requested Hall’s resignation months ago, something the regent presumably would have obliged.

At the very least, the board of regents, which is meeting Wednesday and Thursday, should have a no confidence vote to show its displeasure with Hall’s disruptive behavior.

If none of those things happen, then the Legislature should move forward with the impeachment proceedings which have been measured, deliberative and bipartisan.

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