House Select Committee on Transparency

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

In a public interview with The Texas Tribune on Thursday, UT System Regent Wallace Hall said the Travis County district attorney will take his case to a grand jury to investigate him for his alleged release of confidential student information.

In a room filled with both supporters and critics, Hall said he takes student privacy seriously and denied committing any acts of wrongdoing.

“It would be nicer if they closed the file and moved on, but I’ll go through the process,” Hall said. “I am very comfortable with all the actions that I took with those documents.”

In April, the district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit opened a criminal investigation. Thursday, after the event, a district attorney spokesman confirmed the case against Hall will be brought before a grand jury in the coming weeks. 

The allegations stem from Hall’s personal investigations into the University, from which he brought up issues with the University’s admissions process. In July 2013, after going through thousands of University documents, Hall found two emails that led to a System inquiry into legislative influence in the University’s admissions. While the inquiry found no systematic wrongdoing, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa commissioned an external investigation into admissions in July.

Hall said the primary reason he conducted his investigation and announced his findings to the Board of Regents was because of his desire for transparency in the admissions process.

“If we want the senators and House representatives to be able to get people into universities, let’s just be up front about it,” Hall said. “That’s what I’m pushing for.”

After state legislators accused him of overstepping his authority, Hall became the subject of a House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations investigation in June 2013. A year and two months later, the committee censured Hall, citing, among other actions, his alleged disclosure of personal student information to his lawyers. 

“The committee today — at length — sets out its understanding that Mr. Hall’s actions have crossed the line from remaining informed and engaged to violating his regental and fiduciary duties,” the document states. “Not only did Mr. Hall’s demands and conduct create a toxic environment on the University of Texas at Austin campus and within the System, but the manner in which that conduct was undertaken was simply not constructive taken as a whole.”

Paul Hastings, one of the event attendees and a senior at Thomas Edison State College, believes Hall is innocent and started making and selling pro-Wallace Hall T-shirts with slogans like “Hook ’em Wallace” and “Keep Calm and Wallace On.”

Hastings said his family is from Thailand, where people need political connections to receive basic needs, such as health care, instead of just for getting into college. Hastings said in a country like the U.S., which is supposed to stand for truth and justice, Hall should be regarded as a hero.

“Wallace Hall is being reprimanded for doing the right thing,” Hastings said.

Hall also believes in his own innocence. During their discussion Thursday, he told Evan Smith, editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune, that since the committee’s decision in August, he has continued to be “unabated” in conducting his System governing duties.

“I certainly don’t feel in any way diminished,” Hall said. “If the transparency committee truly thought that I had violated the law, shouldn’t they have brought articles of impeachment against me?”

House transparency committee co-chairs and state Reps. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and Dan Flynn, R-Canton, address the media after a meeting on May 12. The committee determined by a 7-1 vote that there are sufficient grounds for UT System Regent Wallace Hall's impeachment. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

After investigating Regent Wallace Hall for more than a year, the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations voted 6-1 to issue him an "admonishment and censure" on Monday.

The decision came after the committee met for almost four hours in executive session. One of the committee's co-chairs, state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, said Hall is the first regent on a public university governing board to be censured in the state's history.

"It will go with him the rest of his life. I don't know that anyone wants to have that mark on their business record," Flynn said to reporters after the meeting. "I think it sends a strong message."

In June 2013, the committee began investigating Hall, who had filed multiple large records requests to the University, after state legislators accused him of overstepping his authority as regent and working to remove President William Powers Jr.

The committee hired well-known Houston attorney Rusty Hardin as its special counsel and heard testimony from various System and University officials, including Powers and Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa. Instead of issuing a subpoena, the committee invited Hall to testify. Hall declined and never testified before the committee during the investigation.

In May, the committee determined grounds for Hall’s impeachment exist in a 7-1 vote. While the committee had discussed drafting specific articles of impeachment against Hall following the vote, multiple members suggested issuing a public censure as an alternative at a July meeting.

The censure document, primarily written by state Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, finds fault with Hall's “ends-justifies-the-means approach" to investigating issues at the University and the UT System.

“The committee today at length sets out its understanding that Mr. Hall's actions have crossed the line from remaining informed and engaged to violating his regental and fiduciary duties," the document states. "Not only did Mr. Hall’s demands and conduct create a toxic environment on the University of Texas at Austin campus and within the System, but the manner in which that conduct was undertaken was simply not constructive taken as a whole."

The 28-page document also lists and describes some of the committee's findings on Hall's actions, including an incident in which Hall allegedy violated federal student privacy laws. Based on an earlier report from Hardin detailing the alleged violation, the Travis County District Attorney's office opened a criminal investigation into Hall in April.

In a statement, Hall criticized the document and said the state legislature's oversight of the System is "improper interference."

"The committee's findings are based on distortions, untruths, and intentional misrepresentations," Hall said. "Intimidation of non-paid public servants by an 'experimental' committee should not be tolerated by the public, the media, or other Texas officials."

Paul Foster, Board of Regents chairman, addressed his issues with the document in a statement released after the meeting, saying the committee's finding that the board "lost instiutional control" was inaccurate. Foster, who asked Hall to resign in May, also said the System does not believe Hall violated any state law or System rule.

"While I and others may not always concur with the style and methods employed by Regent Wallace Hall, I will affirm that he has always diligently worked to further what he sees as the best interests of the UT System," Foster said.

Gov. Rick Perry, who has expressed his support for Hall throughout the investigation, said he hoped the censure would end the matter in a statement on Monday.

"I hope today closes this ugly chapter and Regent Hall's critics can stop wasting time and start focusing on what's important, ensuring higher education is affordable, accessible and accountable to all Texans," Perry said.

The committee's other co-chair, state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, said pursuing Hall’s impeachment is not off the table.

"A vote of censure is not a vote against impeachment,” Alvarado said. “However, we believe our investigation would benefit by taking some formal action at this time.”

After the meeting, Alvarado said new evidence or the district attorney's investigation could prompt the committee to take further action against Hall.

If he were to be impeachmed, Hall would be the first nonelected official in the state's history to face such action. Hall's term expires in February 2017. Both Cigarroa and Powers will leave resign from their positions in Decemeber and June 2015, respectively.

According to the censure document, the committee will maintain "full jurisdiction and continuing oversight" of the System. Alvarado said while the committee will begin looking into to other matters for the first time since its invesitgation in to Hall began, state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, and Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, will be responsible for monitoring issues at the System.

State Rep. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, gave the lone vote against the censure. After the meeting, Perry said he was cautious of the committee micromanaging the UT System. In May, he also voted against grounds for Hall’s impeachment existing. State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, was absent for Monday's meeting.

This article has been updated throughout since its original publication.

House transparency committee co-chairs and state Reps. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and Dan Flynn, R-Canton, address the media after a meeting on May 12. The committee determined by a 7-1 vote that there are sufficient grounds for UT System Regent Wallace Hall's impeachment. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations questioned three UT System officials about President William Powers Jr.’s resignation and recent controversies surrounding Regent Wallace Hall for more than three hours at a meeting on Wednesday.

The committee invited UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, Paul Foster, Board of Regents chairman, and Pedro Reyes, executive vice chancellor of academic affairs, to testify. Texas Exes President Kay Bailey Hutchison was also invited but said she could not appear because of a scheduling conflict.

Earlier this month, Cigarroa asked Powers to resign by the end of October. Powers requested that he be allowed to stay on through the legislative session. After initially deciding to discuss the matter with the regents, Cigarroa agreed to Powers’ request on July 9 with his resignation date set for June 2, 2015.

Citing a recent conversation he had with Powers in the weeks before the resignation request that “went public” as an example, Cigarroa told the committee he asked for Powers’ resignation because of their difficult working relationship.

“Fundamentally, it came back to a breakdown in communications and a breakdown in trust,” Cigarroa said.

While he and Powers had been discussing an exit plan for more than a year, Cigarroa said recent issues that continued to strain their relationship pushed him to pursue his resignation.

“This not been easy for me. It just has not,” Cigarroa said. “At the end of the day, I have to make a decision that’s in the best interests of the University.”

The committee asked about the System’s response to a letter to Foster sent by the committee co-chairs on July 7, requesting no employment action be taking with witnesses with Powers or any other witness to the committee’s investigation into Hall.

At the regents meeting on July 10, Foster asked legislators not to try influencing personnel matters at UT institutions.

One of the committee co-chairs, state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, defended the letter and said the committee was doing its job.

"With all due respect, you're public servants, and you're accountable to the people of Texas,” Alvarado said. “Legislative directives and investigations would be necessary, quite frankly, if you had your house in order.”

Foster, who said the System followed the the co-chairs' instructions, called the letter “offensive” and said the legislature did not have the authority to make such a request.

“In my view, it is not appropriate for the legislature to intervene and try to influence personnel decisions at the University of Texas,” Foster said.

The committee members also asked the officials about Hall’s recent conduct, including a recent records request for Powers’ travel records.

The committee has been investigating Hall since June 2013 after state legislators accused him of overstepping his authority as a regent and working to remove Powers from his position. In May, the committee determined grounds for Hall’s impeachment exist in a 7-1 vote.

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, asked the officials about emails obtained by The Texas Tribune in June showing Hall sought a private meeting with Kedra Ishop, the University’s admissions director at the time, in March and May.

Before the committee, Cigarroa said the meeting did not occur because the Travis County District Attorney’s office stepped in and cited Ishop as a potential witness in its criminal investigation into Hall having potentially violated student privacy laws.

Cigarroa said his authority to prevent Hall from inquiring into such matters is limited. Foster, who made comparisons between Powers and Hall, said he would be cautious to enact any rule changes to that ability.

While the committee took no further action in drafting the articles at Wednesday’s meeting, the members did discuss multiple options it can pursue going forward. Martinez Fischer said the committee should consider writing “best practices” for state university governing boards instead of drafting articles of impeachment against Hall.

State Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, said he would like for the committee to wait for the criminal investigation into Hall to develop before pursuing impeachment further. Price said the committee could “pursue multiple avenues” including a public censure or reprimand against Hall that offers guidelines to regents.

State Rep. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, said he was cautious of setting a precedent of legislative micromanagement over the System. In May, Perry gave the only vote against grounds existing for Hall's impeachment.

The committee’s next scheduled meeting is on Aug. 11.

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

After days of speculation, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and President William Powers Jr. agreed to set Powers’ resignation date for June 2, 2015, giving him almost 11 months to complete his remaining goals for the University.

On July 2, Cigarroa requested Powers resign by October — a timetable that Cigarroa said would allow Powers to finish both his $3 billion fundraising campaign and his chairmanship of the Association of American Universities. In a letter to Cigarroa on July 4, Powers said he would prefer to leave at the end of the 2015 legislative session.

News of Cigarroa’s request to Powers broke on July 4 after it was leaked out to multiple media outlets by unnamed sources. Students, faculty and alumni voiced their support for Powers in reaction. Student leaders started a petition and planned a march. Faculty Council called an emergency meeting to rally support for Powers. Newly minted Texas Exes President Kay Bailey Hutchison released a statement with the alumni association’s chairman calling Powers’ potential firing “a travesty.”

Some state legislators also expressed support for Powers and the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations co-chairs asked the regents on Monday not to remove him, citing the committee’s investigation into Regent Wallace Hall.

Before the unexpected decision on July 9, Cigarroa had said he would discuss Powers’ employment with the Board of Regents at the board’s July 10 meeting. While Cigarroa has called Powers time at the University “superb,” he has said repeatedly that his decision is not related to one particular instance, but rather his overall difficult relationship with Powers.

“From my perspective, it’s an issue of ‘Can we trust each other with communications without it going viral?’” Cigarroa said after the July 10 board meeting. “Because it’s really hard to have a productive relationship when a chancellor and a president can’t have discussion on sensitive matters.”

After the news was announced at the emergency Faculty Council meeting July 9, Powers said he was pleased with the agreement.

“We have a great faculty and a great group of students. I’m humbled and gratified by all the work we’ve done together and your support,” Powers said. “This is a career path that makes sense for our family.”

After the meeting, Student Government President Kori Rady said he believes Cigarroa’s decision to keep Powers on until June 2015 was influenced by the support shown by students, faculty and alumni.

“He received massive support from every entity,” Rady said. “I really think that made the difference, and, of course, I think it’s very difficult to fire someone based on communication differences if that person has that amount of support.”

 

Unfortunate chapter

With Powers’ end date fixed, Chairman Paul Foster expressed disappointment with “insulting and disparaging comments” sent to Cigarroa over the past week and called on the board, System and University to move forward at the July 10 meeting.

“I sincerely hope we never revisit this unfortunate chapter in the history of this great state,” Foster said. “There’s much good work to be done and the state and the nation are watching, and the future is bright.”

After the meeting, both Foster and Cigarroa refused to identify who sent the comments but said they were not threatening and were from parties and individuals outside the board.

Foster, who said he was pleased Cigarroa and Powers agreed July 9 to set Powers’ resignation for June 2015, also asked the Texas Legislature not to try influencing board decisions.

“The point is the board has a role. It’s not political. We’re not politicians,” Foster said after the meeting. “I believe we should be left alone to do our business.”

Clarifying, Foster said he was not criticizing the transparency committee’s investigation into Hall or its right to do so.

The regents also approved recommendations from Cigarroa for improving admissions processes at System institutions. While presenting the recommendations, Cigarroa said his decision to ask Powers to resign was not related to the System’s investigation into the University’s admissions, which will be conducted by an outside firm.

Cigarroa recommended increasing transparency in admissions processes; namely, he proposed prohibiting the consideration of recommendation letters submitted outside the prescribed process in admissions decisions.

“What concerns me is how external input outside the formal admissions process is handled administratively and within the University of Texas,” Cigarroa said.

In May, a limited System inquiry into the University’s admissions determined there was no structured system of wrongdoing, but found instances in which letters of recommendations from legislator sent directly to Powers or a dean likely influenced admissions decisions. Noting its limited data pool, the inquiry also found letters from legislators were more likely to influence admissions decisions than others.

 

Search for the next president 

Foster said he will form a search committee for Powers’ replacement in August. According to Cigarroa, the committee “will include representation of faculty, deans, students and community representatives of the University, as well as at least two current presidents from UT institutions and at least one member of the Board of Regents.”

Cigarroa announced his own resignation in February to return to practicing medicine at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. His replacement is expected to be announced before the start of the fall 2014 semester. With change ahead, Foster said he hopes the System and the University will start working better together at the July 10 meeting.

“Within a year, we will have a new chancellor and a new president at UT-Austin,” Foster said. “I sincerely hope that much sooner than that we also have a new collaborative and beneficial relationship with the various organizations who share our love for this great flagship university.”

 

Powers’ final months 

With almost 11 months left as president, Powers will work to finish his $3 billion capital fundraising campaign and help bring the Dell Medical School closer to being ready for its launch in fall 2016, according to UT spokesman Gary Susswein. 

Susswein said Powers will also work to improve the University’s four-year graduation rates. In 2012, Powers set a goal of pushing the University’s four-year graduation to 70 percent by 2016. Graduation rates from the classes of 2007 to 2013 have fluctuated between 50 and 52 percent.

In his July 4 letter, Powers also cited "implementing new and more efficient business models" as one of his goals. The University has slowly moved closer to implementing Shared Services centralization plan despite disapproval from some faculty members. In the letter, Powers also said the 2015 legislative session will have a significant impact on the University, particularly in setting its budget. 

Powers will also work with Cigarroa and his successor to ensure a smooth transition for Powers’ replacement but will likely not be part of the search process, Susswein said. Powers himself said he will return to teaching at the School of Law after his term as president ends next year. 

Additional reporting by YoungJee Jung and Christina Noriega.

House transparency committee co-chairs and state Reps. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and Dan Flynn, R-Canton, address the media after a meeting on May 12. The committee determined by a 7-1 vote that there are sufficient grounds for UT System Regent Wallace Hall's impeachment. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations co-chairs sent a letter on Monday to Paul Foster, UT System Board of Regents chairman, asking the board not to make any employment decisions with witnesses in its investigation into Regent Wallace Hall.

The letter – written by state Reps. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and Dan Flynn, R-Canton – comes in response to media reports over the weekend that Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa asked President William Powers Jr. on July 2 to either resign or be removed from his position by the Board of Regents. In a letter to Cigarroa, Powers said he wanted to resign after the 2015 legislative session.

Powers testified before the transparency committee in December 2013. On July 4, UT spokesman Gary Susswein declined to comment on Powers' potential removal.

Cigarroa’s decision comes weeks after he decided the System will hire an outside firm to conduct a new investigation into the University’s admissions process. In May, a limited inquiry conducted by two System officials into legislative influence on admissions found no structured system of wrongdoing but found instances in which letters of recommendation sent directly to Powers or a dean likely influenced admissions decisions.

In an interview with The Daily Texan in June, Flynn said he supported the new investigation.

According to the regents’ agenda for their upcoming meeting on Thursday, they will discuss Powers’ employment in executive session and will take action on a report on admissions from Cigarroa.

While Cigarroa has not yet publically cited a reason for asking Powers to resign, the committee co-chairs said no witnesses should not be removed “absent compelling justification.”

Citing that future testimony may be needed, the co-chairs said the regents should take no action because it could “affect the availability of witnesses.”

The transparency committee has been investigating Hall since June 2013 after state legislators accused him of overstepping his authority through large records request to the University and working with other regents to remove Powers from his position. The committee determined grounds for Hall’s impeachment exist in May and is in the process of developing specific impeachment articles.

Other state legislators have come to Powers’ defense. In an email to the Texan, state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said Cigarroa and the regents should reconsider any decision to remove Powers.

“As president, [Powers] has enhanced UT's national stature, reformed the undergraduate curriculum, prioritized diversity, and emphasized excellence in research and teaching,” Zaffirini, who has long been a supporter of Powers, said. “Despite this stellar record of accomplishment – or perhaps because of it – persons advancing an ideological, anti-higher education agenda want nothing more than to see Powers fired.”

            

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

The UT System will launch an external investigation into the University’s admissions process, according to System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo.

After the System released its findings from a limited investigation in May, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and Dan Sharphorn, System vice chancellor and general counsel, determined a full investigation was needed because of questions raised about the admissions process by the public, LaCoste-Caputo said.

“There were some lingering questions and the chancellor felt a deeper investigation was needed,” LaCoste-Caputo said.

Cigarroa first announced the investigation in an interview with The Texas Tribune on Friday. An outside firm has not yet been selected.

The limited investigation, which looked at the influence of letters of recommendations from state legislators on the University’s admissions process, was conducted by Sharphorn and Wanda Mercer, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. According its report, the investigation found there was no structured system of favoritism or wrongdoing at the University, but found instances in which letters from legislators sent directly to President William Powers Jr. or a dean likely influenced the admissions process.

“With the undergraduate data, there is at least the strong appearance that the letters of recommendation from legislators, regardless of the strength of the substance of the recommendations, count more in admissions decisions than other letters of recommendations,” the report stated.

At a Board of Regents meeting in May, Cigarroa suggested ending the practice of allowing letters not submitted through the prescribed process to be considered in admissions decisions and said he would review System-wide admissions processes by meeting with institution presidents and admissions officials to develop new recommendations for change.

According to the report, Cigarroa authorized the initial investigation in July 2013 after Regent Wallace Hall brought up issues with the admissions process from two emails he received from one of his records request to the University.

Because of his large records requests to the University, Hall became the subject of a House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations investigation after state legislators accused him of overstepping his authority and working to remove Powers from office. In May, the committee determined grounds for his impeachment exist, and it is in the process of drafting specific impeachment articles.

One of the committee’s co-chairs, state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, said he supports the System’s investigation.

“That’s part of what [the transparency committee] suggested all along is that there need to be some procedural changes at the University, and I applaud them for going forward to delve into those procedures,” Flynn said.

Flynn said the committee could act if the investigation finds wrongdoing.

“If there’s something that’s inappropriate, it needs to be sought out,” Flynn said. “If after their probe they find something that’s inappropriate, then certainly it should be brought to attention.”

UT spokesman Gary Susswein declined to comment on the new investigation.

In this podcast, Jacob Kerr and Amanda Voeller discuss some of the biggest stories in May, including the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations vote that grounds for UT System Regent Wallace Hall's impeachment exist. They also talk about the University's tuition rates for fall 2014, as approved by the Board of Regents.

Outgoing UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa

Regent Controversy

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.

Chancellor Search

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.

Shared Services

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.

Transportation

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.

SXSW Crash

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.

UT System Regent Wallace Hall prepares to leave after a UT System Board of Regents meeting on April 29.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

While a state legislative committee discussed drafting articles of impeachment against UT System Regent Wallace Hall in exectuive session, Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement in support of Hall .

The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations has been investigating Hall since June 2013 for potentially overstepping his authority as a regent. State legislators have accused Hall conducting a “witch hunt” to remove President William Powers Jr. from his position through large records requests.

Perry said Hall’s actions are beneficial to the System and the state of Texas.

"Wallace Hall should be commended for his persistence — in the face of overwhelming opposition from bureaucrats — in trying to ensure the institutions of higher education under his purview are operating effectively, efficiently and within the law,” Perry said in a statement. “Hall is doing exactly what every regent and every appointee in the State of Texas should be doing: asking tough questions, gathering facts and searching for the truth.”

If the transparency committee votes on specific articles, Hall’s case will go to the full Texas House of Representatives. If a majority of the members of the House approve of the case’s merits, it will go to the Senate, where members will convene as a court to make a final decision.

“Today we will begin formally drafting potential articles of impeachment for the committee’s future consideration,” state Rep. Carol Alvarado D-Houston and committee co-chair, said. “This is an extensive process.”

Before going into executive session, the committee heard testimony from House Parliamentarian Chris Griesel and Jeff Archer, interim assistant executive director of the Texas Legislative Council. Griesel and Archer discussed procedures for impeachment.

“There are no rules for what an article of impeachment has to look like,” Archer said.

If the Senate ultimately approves Hall’s impeachment, Hall would be the first non-elected official to be impeached in Texas history.

During the meeting, state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, asked Barry McBee, UT System vice chancellor for government relations, to provide a written response detailing what level of criminal investigation or charges would prompt members of the Board of Regents to determine Hall unfit to serve.

The Travis County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit has opened an investigation into allegations produced in the report published by the special counsel to the transparency committee that Hall violated privacy laws in distributing private student information.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Update (May 20, 12:32 p.m.): In the letter, released on Tuesday by attorney Allan Van Fleet, Hall crticized Chairman Paul Foster's handling of the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations investigation and the decision to ask for his resignation.

"The result is that you have used your position to participate in a campaign that is intended to impugn my reputation," Hall said.  "You have also allowed a small group of legislators to interfere in the Board's official opperations."

Citing letters sent to the transparency committee by System outside counsel Phillip Hilder and Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa in early 2014, Hall said the committee has found no evidence of wrongdoing on his part. A report released in April by Rusty Hardin, special counsel to the transparency committee, determine Hall had likely committed impeachable offenses.

After Tuesday's UT System Board of Regents meeting, Foster said he read the letter and will not pursue the issue any further.

"I pledge to work closely with him, as I have in the past," Foster said. "As far as I'm concerned, that's history."

Original story (May 19): UT System Regent Wallace Hall said he will not resign in a letter to Paul Foster, Board of Regents chairman, according to Hall’s attorney Allan Van Fleet.

Foster publicly asked Hall to resign at a regents meeting on Thursday. A few days before on May 12, the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations determined grounds for Hall’s impeachment exist in a 7-1 vote. The committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday and Thursday to develop specific articles of impeachment.

In a statement, Hall said he has been working to point out wrongdoing at System's 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.

The committee began investigating Hall in June 2013 after state legislators accused him of overstepping his authority as a regent and seeking the removal of President William Powers Jr. from his position.

According to System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, Foster has not yet received the letter. The regents are schedule to meet via teleconference on Tuesday.