On Tuesday, after an exceedingly lengthy deliberation process, a Travis County grand jury declined to indict UT System Regent Wallace Hall, the embattled University official who has embarked on a years-long witch hunt against President William Powers Jr. In a poignant and rare move, however, the grand jury made a specific point of issuing a report that called for Hall’s removal from office. We completely agree.
Given that the bar to convict Hall of many of the accusations levied against him, such as violating student privacy or overstepping his role as a regent, would have been fairly high, we think the grand jury’s decision to no-bill Hall was the right one. Instead, we believe impeachment by the state legislature, which does not have a very high burden of proof, is still — in our opinion — the best option.
In the last couple of years, Hall has requested more than 800,000 pages of documents related to University affairs, in a blatant attempt to dig up dirt against Powers and other University officials. The ludicrous and frivolous records requests cost the University more than $1 million to process. These nefarious acts, as well as the self-destructive and malicious way in which Hall completed his duties, led many to correctly determine him unfit for his prestigious office, including the grand jury tasked with investigating him.
Furthermore, the grand jury aptly noted Hall’s total hypocrisy insofar as his obsession with transparency. While Hall’s antics were ostensibly inspired by a dedication to transparency on the 40 Acres, he has stonewalled investigators, such as the House Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, and refused to communicate with the grand jury in a way that left a paper trail.
We reiterate our call for Hall to step down, one notably echoed by Regents Chairman Paul Foster in May of last year. Additionally, we believe that this action — likely the end of the line for Hall’s bout with the criminal justice system — should spur legislators into reopening possible articles of impeachment against the embattled regent.
Theoretically, Hall’s wish has become a reality, as Powers will be stepping down this June. However, given his recent whiny comments about his likely successor — current Provost Gregory Fenves — it would be the height of naiveté to think he would go away.
Reconvene the Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations to reconsider Hall’s impeachment.