UT regent chairman defends Wallace Hall in letter to Jim Pitts

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As the House Transparency Committee took a step closer to possibly impeaching UT System Regent Wallace Hall yesterday, board Chairman Gene Powell wrote a letter to Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, in defense of Hall’s actions.

In a recent opinion piece in the Austin American-Statesman, Pitts criticized Hall’s large open records requests for information from UT-Austin. Pitts also filed a resolution in the House to impeach Hall last month. In the letter obtained by Texas Monthly, Powell defends Hall’s actions.

“Clearly, Regent Hall’s activities are misunderstood and I fear may have been intentionally mischaracterized to you,” Powell said in the letter.

Powell states that Hall, as with any member of the public, has the right to view the documents he requested under the Texas Public Information Act. Hall did not seek information protected by FERPA or HIPAA. According to Powell, Hall has used the information to improve the UT System and UT-Austin.

“Regent Hall’s reviews of records have resulted in suggestions for process improvement and better governance at the U.T. System and at U.T. institutions,” Powell wrote. “He has provided observations about U.T. System and institutional inefficiencies and compliance concerns to Chancellor Cigarroa and to me.”

Powell added that Hall had not shared confidential information to individuals outside of the UT System.

The House Transparency Committee will continue to investigate Hall and plans on holding its next public hearing near the end of August. The committee has stated that it plans to use its subpoena power going forward in its investigation.

Follow Jacob Kerr on Twitter @jacobrkerr.