HOUSTON, Texas — With a vote of 6-1 the Texas House of Representatives Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations took the unprecedented step of issuing a 27-page “motion of admonishment and censure” against the University of Texas embattled watchdog regent, Wallace L. Hall, Jr. The committee sidestepped the issue of the impeachment of Regent Hall saying that possibility has not been ruled out.
The committee spent approximately a half-million dollars of taxpayers’ money to come to a decision that amounts to something less than a slap on the wrist. Having heard hundreds of hours of testimony and reviewing thousands of documents the committee failed to move forward on its previous threat of impeachment against Hall according to an article in the Houston Chronicle dated August 12. The “motion of admonishment and impeachment” is attached below.
Breitbart Texas news contributor Lana Shadwick, an attorney and former judge, reported in May about the “witch hunt” that was being carried out by the committee and their threat of impeachment. According to that article, “The witch hunt began after Hall asked questions about the preferential admissions treatment given to friends and family of Texas lawmakers. Governor Perry and President Powers have clashed on the issues of tuition and graduation rates and teacher roles and research. Hall asked questions about university operations, tuition and graduation rates, and the role of teaching and research in university education. Hall also questioned the practice of law school professors receiving loans from a foundation fund not affiliated with the law school (“forgivable loan program“).
About the admonishment, State Representative Dan Flynn (R-Canton) said, “To my knowledge, this is the first time in state history that a regent has been admonished and censured.”
The admonishment document alleges “numerous willful actions by Mr. Hall that constitute either misconduct, incompetency in the performance of official duties, or behavior unbefitting a nominee for and holder of a state office.” It also attacks the University System for failing to control Mr. Hall’s actions.
“Demonstrating the depths of their malicious attack on a whistleblower, the House committee’s action is as meaningless as it is mean-spirited,” said Empower Texans’ Michael Quinn Sullivan. “By their own admission, Wallace Hall uncovered serious problems at the University of Texas. Yet because he made bureaucrats and their legislative patrons uncomfortable by investigating what have been revealed to be real problems, he has been admonished by the committee. That is to say, because Wallace Hall upheld his oath of office and did his job, the buddies and pals of House Speaker Joe Straus are mad at him.”
“The message seems to be, if you actually uncover waste, fraud and abuse that benefits legislators, you will be subject to legislative finger-wagging,” Sullivan continued. “If the co-chairmen and members of his committee had any moral or political courage, they would have voted for impeachment and allowed a full, robust public debate on the House floor followed by a trial in the Senate. Instead, they offered a poorly written document replete with accusation disproven by their own investigator. If they had been intellectually honest, they would have pulled the plug on the investigation at the out-set, thanked Hall for his diligence and started investigating the fiscal and clout abuse he has uncovered.”
“Instead,” Sullivan concluded, “taxpayers will be footing the bill for a vendetta investigation against a public servant for doing what every appointed official in the state should be doing every day.”
The investigation by these legislators has cost the taxpayers well over $500,000 according to the Chronicle article referenced above. For this, the taxpayers received a 174-page report which was prepared by outside council which was hired by the committee. The committee determined that Halls requests for documents and information from the University he was appointed to oversee were “unreasonable and burdensome.”
The Chronicle article cited Hall supporters as saying his demand for these documents reflected his commitment to uncover potential wrongdoings that less aggressive board members might have let slide. “I hope and expect that legislators will continue with the same seriousness to investigate the issues Regent Hall has brought to light,” Thomas Lindsay, director of the Center for Higher Education Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative-leaning group, said in an interview with the Chronicle after the vote.
“Today’s censure sends an important signal that the Texas Legislature will not stand for abuse of power by political appointees,” the committee’s report said. It apparently says nothing about the committee’s position on possible abuses of power by legislators.
The lone dissenting vote against the admonishment was State Rep. Charles Perry who said he did not think legislators should be “micromanaging” matters at the university into the dispute between Hall and University Board President, William C. Powers, Jr.
Bob Price is a staff writer and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.