On Monday, the Texas House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations voted 7-1 to continue the investigation of embattled UT System Regent Wallace Hall. Hall, appointed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011, has always been an imperfect fit for the System, particularly as a result of his Perry-backed, business-minded stances on the proper role of higher education and often confrontational style. The House committee found there were grounds for Hall’s impeachment, partially as a result of these issues since taking office. In practice, Hall’s intransigence has shown itself through his witch hunt against UT President William Powers Jr. This crusade has taken the form of filing a taxing number of records requests and finagling in business beyond his purview.
While no one can be blamed for Hall’s actions but Hall himself, one cannot ignore the influence of Perry in the regent’s political maneuvering. An investigative report conducted by Rusty Hardin, special counsel to the committee, details both what Hardin identifies as the regent’s impeachable offenses as well as the extent to which the governor, a known opponent of Powers, has attempted to effect his own personal agenda through Hall. According to the report, “A number of witnesses interviewed in the course of this investigation opined that a well-known goal of Governor Perry — and, by extension, his appointee Hall — is to terminate Powers as UT Austin President.”
This editorial board applauds the findings of the House committee, and strongly urges them to recommend full articles of impeachment when the committee comes back into session on May 21.
In the meantime, we strongly hope that Hall resigns before any more harm is done, both to this University and this State. We stand with state Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, in requesting Hall's resignation so the past few years' drama can finally come to an end.
As former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson recently opined in the pages of the Austin American-Statesman, the standard for impeachments in state offices is a significantly lower hurdle than federal positions. The committee need not prove that Hall was engaged in some sort of nefarious conspiracy, but merely that he took actions tantamount to malfeasance.
Any cursory overview of Hall’s tumultuous tenure is proof enough of said malfeasance, in this board’s opinion. Surely, the bipartisan representatives on the House committee saw the issue similarly, which is why they found that Hall engaged in impeachable offenses.
Texans take their education seriously, particularly at this University. As UT megadonor Joe Jamail was quoted as saying on this issue recently, “One thing [Gov.] Perry’s got to understand is, we impeached one [expletive deleted] governor for fooling with the University of Texas.”
Jamail, of course, was referring to James Edward “Pa” Ferguson, who left office in disgrace about a century ago after getting into a tiff over academic freedom, but more broadly to the power of the Governor’s office to micromanage the affairs of the University. Judging by today’s events, said micromanaging — now on the part of Hall — will still be dealt with the same way.