A state legislative committee is working to draft articles of impeachment against UT System Regent Wallace Hall, who could be the first non-elected state official to be removed from office.
Appointed by the governor, the regents serve as the governing body of the System. The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations determined at a meeting in May that Hall committed impeachable offenses. The committee began investigating Hall in June 2013 after state legislators accused Hall of overstepping his authority as a regent and working with other regents to remove President William Powers Jr. from his position by filing large records requests to the University.
In a statement released by his lawyer in May, Hall said he has been working to point out wrongdoing at System institutions.
“Will the public ever know the truth about problems in our institutions if legislators are allowed to impeach board members who reveal them?” Hall said.
If the committee drafts specific articles, Hall’s case will go to the Texas House of Representatives. If a majority of the House votes in favor of impeachment, the matter would move to the Senate, which would convene as a court to make a final decision.
While state legislators, student leaders and board chairman Paul Foster have called on Hall to resign, Gov. Rick Perry has defended Hall. After Hall declined Foster’s request to resign, Foster said he would no longer pursue the issue.
The transparency committee met on May 21 to begin discussing the articles but has not yet scheduled any meetings since. Following a transparency committee report alleging Hall violated FERPA, the Travis County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit also opened an investigation into his actions.
Hall’s term will expire in 2017.
The UT System Board of Regents is in the process of selecting a new chancellor for the System.
Outgoing Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa announced his resignation in February to return to practicing medicine at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. Cigarroa, who will remain chancellor until his replacement is selected, began serving in the position in 2009. The chancellor, who is appointed by and reports to the regents, serves as the head executive of the System.
During his announcement, Cigarroa said he had accomplished his goals as chancellor and his decision was not related to the ongoing regents controversy.
An email, written to Cigarroa by Foster and originally obtained by The Dallas Morning News in March, suggested Regent Wallace Hall accused Cigarroa of not doing his job weeks before Cigarroa announced his resignation.
In February, board chairman Paul Foster said a new chancellor would be selected over the summer. The System hired search firm Wheless Partners in March to assist in the search.
Many of the University’s 18 colleges and schools independently operate services in the areas of finance, information technology, human resources and procurement, but the University is looking at saving costs through a centralization plan that has been met with some controversy.
The Committee on Business Productivity, a group charged with identifying ways for UT to cut costs, first introduced Shared Services in January 2013. The plan calls for centralizing these services in order to cut costs at the University. According to Kevin Hegarty, University vice president and chief financial officer, 500 jobs will be eliminated through the centralization process — supposedly through natural attrition and retirement.
In early April, Powers endorsed the Shared Services Steering Committee’s report, launching two pilot programs in the College of Education and Office of the Provost.
Some faculty, staff and students have voiced their opposition to the plan. More than 100 faculty members signed a letter opposing Shared Services and submitted it to Powers in April.
In late April, UTPD arrested 18 students, all of whom were members of Save Our Community Coalition, for criminal trespassing after they participated in a sit-in against Shared Services in front of President William Powers Jr.’s office. The sit-in occurred after a more than 200-person protest in front of the UT Tower earlier that day.
In an interview with The Daily Texan in March, Hegarty said he believes opponents of the plan do not understand that the University’s current business model is unsustainable.
“We’re getting starved on the academic end for dollars to hire teachers and retain people,” Hegarty said.
According to a report by the Shared Services Steering Committee, implementing Shared Services will cost the University approximately $35-$40 million. Each year thereafter, the University’s projected savings will sit somewhere between $30-$40 million annually, Hegarty said in March.
With Austin’s rapid growth in recent years, the city, Capital Metro and other Central Texas transportation and planing entities are collaborating on Project Connect, a plan with the goal to reduce traffic congestion and improve transportation methods in the Austin areas.
The city’s second bus rapid transit route is scheduled to begin service in August, running from the Domain to Westlake Mall and replacing the Pickle Research Center shuttle. Known as MetroRapid, the bus service uses technology to keep green lights green for a few extra seconds when the bus is behind schedule, stops at fewer stops than regular routes and offers wireless internet to riders.
A Project Connect committee recommended building a proposed $1.38 billion urban rail system in early May. The rail would run from Highland Mall through downtown and south to the East Riverside area.
The 16 proposed rail stops include stops near UT’s Dell Medical School — which is under construction and scheduled to open in 2016 — as well as near the Capitol, Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium and the northern edge of campus.
CapMetro buses, except the MetroAirport bus, stopped running on Congress Avenue permanently on Tuesday, moving to Guadalupe and Lavaca. These two streets have transit priority lanes specifically for buses, while Congress Avenue does not.
Rashad Charjuan Owens, the driver indicted in the South By Southwest crash that killed four people and injured approximately 20, made his first court appearance since his arrest at a pretrial hearing on June 4.
At the hearing, district court Judge Clifford Brown reset Owens’ next court appearance for July 8. Members of Owens’ family attending the Wednesday court appearance declined to comment.
In May, a Travis County grand jury indicted Owens on one count of capital murder, four counts of felony murder and 24 counts of aggravated assault, according to the district clerk’s office.
Police have previously confirmed Owens was driving while intoxicated as he fled police and drove a stolen car through a crowd of people on Red River Street on March 13. Capital murder charges were filed after Jamie West, 27, and Steven Craenmehr, 35, died at the scene. In the two weeks after the crash, Deandre Tatum, 18, and Sandy Le, 26, died.
Correction: The second MetroRapid route will only be replacing the PRC shuttle and not Route 3.