Moving forward with its investigation into UT System Regent Wallace Hall, the House Select Committee on Transparency in Stage Agency Operations decided Hall’s attorneys would not be allowed to cross-examine witnesses during the upcoming hearings.
The decision, which came after the committee spent more than 1.5 hours in executive session at its meeting on Monday, was based on advice from special counsel Rusty Hardin. Hardin, who was hired by the committee in late August, explained that no cross-examination should take place since the committee is not trying Hall.
“We intend to make this as absolutely fair as we can to Mr. Hall,” Hardin said. “This is an investigation, not a trial. Our investigation may determine that nothing is to happen after this.”
If the committee decides to proceed with impeachment after the hearings process, articles of impeachment would be presented by Hardin to the Texas House of Representatives. If a majority in the House votes in favor of charging Hall with impeachment, the Senate would conduct a trial in which Hall’s attorneys would be allowed to cross-examine witnesses. A two-thirds vote in the Senate would be required to remove Hall.
At the meeting, Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton and committee co-chairman, said the committee would be investigating whether Hall left off several state and federal lawsuits on his original application for the regent position, disclosed sensitive student information to the public and overstepped his authority as a regent. The committee began investigating Hall in July after he began filing massive open records requests to the University and state legislators accused him of working with his fellow regents to oust President William Powers Jr.
Allan Van Fleet, one of Hall’s attorneys, criticized the committee’s decision and the way it handled the meeting.
“Today, we heard the committee spend 10 minutes of platitude on transparency and spend two hours in secrecy,” Van Fleet said. “It’s important that the full story come out, not just the limited amount Mr. Hardin may decide is relevant.”
After the meeting, Van Fleet defended his client against the accusations that the committee will investigate, and said Hall’s massive open records requests were not part of a larger plan to get Powers fired.
“[Hall] is not after President Powers,” Van Fleet said. “What he is after is a UT System that is fully transparent [and] that is open to people of Texas. Along the way, if there be legislators, if there be other officers in UT who should have done their job as good as Wallace Hall has been doing his, then the chips will fall as they are.”
Flynn added that the committee would keep its investigation focused on Hall for the time being, though Hall’s attorneys have indicated that they feel the focus should be on documents Hall has obtained from the University.
“We are not investigating the University of Texas at this time,” Flynn said. “However any information that does come out by the committee, it will be disclosed in the spirit of the transparency of this committee.”
If impeached, Hall would be the first executive appointee in the state’s history and third official overall to be removed from office. Hardin noted that cross-examination was allowed in 1917 during the investigation into Gov. James Ferguson, but not in the investigation into Judge O. P. Carillo in 1975.