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Perry: UT Regent Hall "Should Be Commended"

As a legislative committee met to draft articles of impeachment against UT System Regent Wallace Hall, the man who appointed him to the board, Gov. Rick Perry, issued a strongly worded statement of support for the embattled regent.

Gov. Rick Perry is shown on Nov. 15, 2013, at an Austin kickoff rally for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn's re-election campaign.

As a legislative committee met on Wednesday to draft articles of impeachment against University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall, the man who appointed him to the board, Gov. Rick Perry, issued a strongly worded statement of support for the embattled regent.

"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.

Hall has been the focus of controversy and investigation by lawmakers because of his ongoing personal investigations into the administration of the University of Texas at Austin. He has contended that his efforts are part of the oversight duties of a regent.

Last week, a majority of the members of the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, which has spent months looking into Hall's activities. voted that grounds to impeach Hall exist. A separate criminal investigation — believed to be centered around whether or not Hall violated the law by sharing protected student information — has been opened by the Travis County district attorney's office.

At a meeting of the UT System regents last week, Paul Foster, the board's chairman, publicly asked Hall to resign — a move that some other regents supported and two others vocally opposed. Hall did not respond at the time, but earlier this week, he sent Foster a heated letter indicating that he did not intend to leave the board.

"Your attempt to pressure me by using such underhanded tactics is shameful," Hall wrote to Foster.

On Tuesday, Foster said the episode was behind them and that the board was moving forward. 

In his statement, Perry, who appointed both Foster and Hall, held up the latter as a model regent and noted that, despite calling on Hall to resign, Foster had said he did not believe his fellow board member had run afoul of any rules or regulations.

"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," Perry said.

At its meeting on Wednesday, the legislative committee reviewed the many steps of the process that, if followed, could ultimately end with Hall's impeachment. It will take a significant amount of time — possibly months — before the committee finalizes and votes on articles of impeachment.

Perry has spoken out in support of Hall before, but Wednesday's statement was his most detailed to date on the unfolding situation with his appointee.

"Texans should be outraged by his treatment," Perry said, "and deeply concerned it will have a chilling effect on those who are tasked with the oversight of state agencies and institutions that they are responsible for."      

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. Paul Foster is a major donor to the Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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