Transparency committee to vote on impeachment recommendation in May

By Reeve Hamilton
The Texas Tribune
Originally published April 24, 2014

A legislative committee that is investigating University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall plans to vote at a hearing on May 12 whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the full House. If it requires more time, the vote may not come until May 13.

The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations met on Thursday for the first time since its special counsel, Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, issued a report laying out four possible grounds for Hall’s impeachment.

The reasons listed in Hardin’s report include allegations that the regent abused his office in his pursuit of information regarding the University of Texas at Austin and his handling of private student information.

Hall’s lawyers have denied any wrongdoing on the regent’s part and asserted that he was fulfilling his official duties in looking into actions by UT-Austin administrations that he believed to be questionable.

Nearly the entirety of the committee’s Thursday meeting occurred behind closed doors. Co-chair Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, described the private discussion as productive and “fruitful.” Both she and fellow co-chair Dan Flynn, R-Van, declined to predict how the vote might go in May.

Alvarado indicated that even if the committee did not vote to recommend articles of impeachment to the full House, it might still opt to issue a lesser reprimand to the regent. She was not specific as to what form that might take.

Even if committee members recommend articles of impeachment, Flynn said that would not conclude the committee’s work on the issue. Drafting the articles of impeachment would begin immediately after the vote.

Because impeachment proceedings against a non-elected official would be groundbreaking, Flynn said it was important that the committee’s work be viewed as thorough and fair. Though one member of the committee received a campaign contribution in December from a political action committee that counts Hall among its top benefactors, both co-chairs said they had complete confidence in all the committee members.

Flynn said it is clear that the committee’s efforts have already made a difference, in part by altering the way lawmakers view the approval process for gubernatorial appointees.

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.