Hall's Lawyer Accuses Committee of Withholding Information

Dallas businessman Wallace Hall, Jr. takes notes at the University of Texas Board of Regents meeting on Feb. 14, 2013 in Austin.
Dallas businessman Wallace Hall, Jr. takes notes at the University of Texas Board of Regents meeting on Feb. 14, 2013 in Austin.

An attorney for embattled University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall issued a letter to the co-chairs of a legislative committee investigating the regent on Tuesday accusing them of withholding information that would exonerate the regent.

The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations is expected to vote on whether or not to recommend articles of impeachment against Hall as soon as May 12. Hall has been accused of abusing his authority in the course of personally investigating the University of Texas at Austin administration, among other things. The regent has denied any wrongdoing.

One resource the committee members are likely to draw from as they make their final decision is a lengthy report prepared by their special counsel, Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, which listed four possible bases for recommending impeachment.

In the report, Hardin also said that some of Hall's actions may have violated the Texas Penal Code. The co-chairs, state Reps. Dan Flynn, R-Van, and Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, referred those matters to the Travis County district attorney's Public Integrity Unit, which has opened an investigation.

In his letter on Tuesday, Hall's attorney, Allan Van Fleet, noted that the committee has an audio recording of a closed-door meeting of the UT System board that was made by Regent Alex Cranberg without the knowledge of other participants. In a previous letter dated April 25, Van Fleet called on the co-chairs to make the recording public, to produce a certified transcript and to provide the recording to the Travis County prosecutors. He said the tape would prove that certain insinuations made in Hardin's report are untrue, including that pressure from Hall led UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to announce his resignation in February and that Hall's dissatisfaction with UT-Austin President Bill Powers was personal and vindictive.

 

In his Tuesday letter, Van Fleet said the committee's failure to turn the recording over raises concerns that "the committee is engaged in a process to manipulate official proceedings for the purpose of interfering in the board's investigations, personnel matters and other activities."

Neither Alvarado nor Hardin immediately returned requests seeking comment. The Texas Tribune has requested the recording from the University of Texas System, which has asked the attorney general for permission to withhold it.

Van Fleet further disputes other allegations in Hardin's report. Hardin concluded that Hall's application to be a regent was incomplete because it did not list certain lawsuits Hall was a party to, but also said that was unlikely to be a reason for impeachment. Van Fleet asserts that Hall did fully disclose the required information in his application.

Van Fleet also said in the Tuesday letter that Hall did not violate federal student privacy laws in sharing information with his attorneys, did not leak private student information to media outlets and did not try to influence the testimony of witnesses who spoke to the committee.

By refusing to subpoena Hall, who was repeatedly invited to testify but refused to do so without being compelled, Van Fleet asserted that the committee was trying to "prevent public exposure to the truth about every issue under investigation."

Remaining silent throughout the months-long investigation has required Hall to "absorb the abusive conduct of the committee that is intended to impugn his reputation, caused him to expend personal resources in defense of his volunteer position and undermined his authority as a regent," Van Fleet wrote.

"It has also led to a false public impression that Regent Hall has had anything to do with the dysfunction and other problems he is working within the system to address," Van Fleet added.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. Rusty Hardin was a major donor to the Tribune in 2012 and 2013. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.