Posted: May 12, 2014 12:57 PM
Updated: May 12, 2014 12:57 PM
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) A Texas House panel on Monday found grounds for impeachment against University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall over his relentless efforts to get the Austin flagship campus president fired, the initial step in what could be the first removal of a governor-appointed official in state history.
The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations voted 7-1 on the motion and is scheduled to vote on specific impeachment recommendations later this month. Those recommendations would go to the full House for consideration. If approved, the Senate would conduct a trial.
There have been few impeachment trials in state history and only two have been successful: Gov. James "Pa" Ferguson in 1917 and a district judge in 1975.
At issue is whether Hall, a Dallas businessman appointed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011, abused the power of his office through massive open records requests that swamped university and system officials, as well as whether he violated state and federal student privacy laws and harmed the university's reputation.
An investigation report for the committee says Hall may have broken the law. The Travis County district attorney's anti-corruption unit has opened a separate criminal investigation.
The panel also could have voted against impeachment and recommended some other punishment, such as a public reprimand.
Hall, through his attorneys, has denied breaking any laws and argued that all of his records demands and inquiries into Powers' tenure as president fell within his responsibility as a regent charged with overseeing the system's 15 education and medical institutions. Hall did not testify before the committee.
Perry, who is winding down 14 years in the governor's office and is not seeking re-election, has said he supports Hall.
Hall, one of nine board members, isn't the only one who has clashed with Powers over myriad issues, including tuition and graduation rates and the role of teaching and research in education.
But it has been Hall's aggressive and relentless pursuit of records and his questions over Powers' leadership that drew scrutiny from lawmakers.