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UT Board Chairman Calls for Regent Hall to Resign

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune
University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall talks with colleague Gene Powell during a break at a regents' meeting on May 14, 2014.

Three days after a legislative committee said there were grounds to impeach University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall, the chairman of UT’s board of regents called on Hall to resign.

During an open meeting of the board Thursday, Paul Foster said that Hall has created controversies that have distracted the board from its obligations.

"We spend a huge percentage of time dealing with him rather than dealing with the issues of the system," Foster said. He also directly addressed Hall, saying his resignation "would be the most beneficial action you can take at this time." 

Hall, who attended the meeting, did not address Foster’s comments. During the meeting, he raised the issue of reopening an investigation of UT-Austin's law school foundation, a move the board rejected.

Regents Jeffrey Hildebrand, Robert Stillwell and Steven Hicks spoke in support of Foster's call for Hall’s resignation Thursday, but Regent Alex Cranberg and former Board Chairman Gene Powell spoke in Hall's defense. No formal vote was taken.

"When you look at all the things we've accomplished, it far more outweighs the concerns we have over one regent asking questions," Powell said. 

Hall has been the subject of a legislative investigation following allegations that he abused his authority in the course of conducting personal investigations into the operations at the University of Texas at Austin. The regent has denied any wrongdoing, citing his oversight role as a regent, a position he has held since February 2011.

In April, the Texas House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations' special counsel, Rusty Hardin, issued a report laying out four possible grounds for impeaching Hall. This week, in a 7-1 vote, the committee approved a motion stating that grounds to impeach Hall exist. Members plan to meet next week on drafting articles of impeachment they might recommend to the full House.

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, a member of the committee, praised Foster's call for Hall’s resignation in a statement.

“I commend the University of Texas System Board of Regents for taking a decisive step today towards healing the University of Texas System and all of its institutions," Fischer said. "It is my sincere hope that Regent Hall do the right thing."

In a statement after this week's transparency committee vote, Hall said, "My efforts as a regent are to serve the interests of our great educational institutions, the students, faculty, and staff who make them great, and the taxpayers who fund them, not to appease a privileged class who abuse them.”

Earlier in the board meeting, the regents voted to revise employment rules so that contracts won’t require prior approval from the board if they’re worth less than $1 million. In addition to student recognition and input from the student advisory board, the eight regents heard an introduction from the dean of the school of medicine at the newly formed UT Rio Grande Valley, Francisco Fernandez.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. Paul Foster, Robert Stillwell and Steven Hicks are major donors to the 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.

Reeve Hamilton has interned at The Nation and The Texas Observer, for which he covered the 2009 legislative session. Most recently, he was a desk assistant at The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. A Houston native, he has a bachelor's degree in English from Vanderbilt University.