Report: Draft of transparency committee report indicates Regent Hall likely committed impeachable offenses


Update (1:16 p.m.): Rusty Hardin, special counsel to the committee, said the draft of the report was sent to state Reps. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, and Carol Alvarado, D-Houston , the co-chairs of the committee, last Tuesday.  Hardin said the other members of the committee received the report Friday.

Hardin said the members of the committee will review the draft of the report and will have a discussion with Hardin about any changes they see fit before the report is released to the public.

According to Hardin, the contract between his law firm, Rusty Hardin & Associates, LLP, and the transparency committee expired on March 31.

Original: A draft of the report prepared by the House transparency committee indicates that UT System Regent Wallace Hall likely committed impeachable offenses during his time as a member of the UT System Board of Regents, as reported by the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle.

The draft of the report, obtained by the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle, states Hall released student information in violation of federal privacy acts. The report states he manipulated the House investigation and coerced witnesses.

The draft of the report — written by Rusty Hardin, general counsel for the committee, and his law firm — said Hall continued to undermine the reputation of UT and President William Powers Jr., even after the committee asked him to stop, according to reports from the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle.  

According to the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle the report includes copies of emails Hall sent to members of the board stating Powers' termination would be easy to overcome.

The House Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations has been investigating Hall since July 2013 for potentially overstepping his duties as a regent. He has been accused by some members of the state legislature as conducting a “witch-hunt” against Powers. 

According to testimony from Kevin Hegarty, executive vice president and chief financial officer at UT, Hall filed open records requests for over 800,000 pages of information from UT. System officials, including outgoing UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, have said the actual number of pages is closer to 100,000.

Last November, the transparency committee heard testimony from Francie Frederick, general counsel for the Board of Regents. Frederick said Hall was mistakenly given access to private student information through his wide ranging open records requests.

In her testimony, Frederick said regents can have access to information protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act if they have a valid, job-related reason to see it. According to the draft of the report, the committee determined Hall did not have the appropriate reasons for seeking this information.

Philip Hilder, outside counsel to the System, submitted a report to the transparency committee in January, stating there was “no credible evidence” Hall violated any state laws regarding the release of data. In his report, Hilder said Hall requested all information protected by FERPA be redacted from the documents, but UT failed to completely remove all potentially problematic information when providing Hall with the requested documents.

Tensions between Powers and members of the board have been ongoing since 2011, when Powers asked Larry Sager, former dean of the School of Law, to resign after concerns arose regarding the foundation's forgivable loan program. Powers said he was unaware Sager awarded himself a $500,000 loan through the program, while Hall claimed he had evidence Powers was aware of the forgivable loan but chose not to take action. Powers has denied these claims.

In Feburary, Cigarroa announced he will be resigning as chancellor. Cigarroa said his decision to resign had nothing to do with the existing tensions between Powers and the board, although an email sent to Cigarroa by board Chairman Paul Foster suggested Hall accused Cigarroa of not doing his job weeks before Cigarroa announced his resignation.