Days after taking office as a regent of the University of Texas, Wallace Hall began making discoveries that pointed toward considerable administrative wrongdoing, questionable admissions decisions and misuse of public funds.
Three years later, UT-Austin President Bill Powers and his friends in the Texas legislature are doing everything they can to silence Hall–and may take the unprecedented step of forcibly removing him from office.
As a pretext, administrators have claimed that Hall’s insatiable demand for UT records (he has requested that over 800,000 pages of documents be made public) hampered university operations.
“It’s time that there’s some action that has to be taken,” said Democratic Rep. Carol Alvarado, chair of the House transparency committee, in a statement to the Houston Chronicle.
Her committee is considering a move to impeach Hall, and has asked him to step down.
Hall has maintained that he is not beholden to lawmakers, but to the public–who deserve to know the truth about the improper dealings of UT administrators.
Hall’s records requests have led to several troubling discoveries. First he uncovered an off-the-books forgivable loan payment made from the university’s Law School Foundation to UT School of Law Dean Larry Sager, according to The Daily Texas.
Sager resigned, but Powers denied knowledge of the illicit payment.
But Hall discovered more. He turned up evidence that the law school was admitting underqualified students–many of whom appear to be friends and relatives of former and current lawmakers.
His findings were corroborated by Jon Cassidy, Texas bureau chief of Watchdog.org. Cassidy reviewed UT law school admissions data as well as Texas bar passage rates, and discovered an undeniable correlation.
“Nobody who deserves his place at the best law school in Texas should be failing the state’s easy bar exam, and certainly not twice,” Cassidy told The Daily Caller. “I found 90 UT Law grads who failed it twice, and at least two dozen of them have connections either to Laredo, home of a Democratic state senator who dominates education issues here, or the leadership circle of Speaker Joe Straus. Straus is perhaps the only man in America who would meet a literal and technical definition of RINO, as he was elected in a coup by Democrats and a few Republican sellouts, whom he made committee chairs.”
The impeachment proceedings against Hall are both retaliatory and designed to squelch the investigation into politically-motivated admissions, said Cassidy.
“The real reason [the legislators are] after Hall is to cover up some scandalous behavior–they’ve been pulling strings to get their underqualified kids and friends’ kids into UT, especially the law school,” he said. “The only question is how far-reaching the scandal is, but hardly anybody in power wants to know.”
At the transparency committee’s last meeting, lawmakers voted to postpone the impeachment decision. Many have called on Hall to resign, however.
Hall has said that he isn’t going anywhere.
“Which approach benefits the UT System, asking the Board of Regents to address wrongdoing, or asking regents who uncover the wrongdoing to resign?” asked Hall in a statement to the Texas Statesman.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry has stood by Hall, whom he appointed to office in 2011. (RELATED: Thanks, Taxpayers: Public University Presidents Getting Even Richer)
“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,” said Perry in a statement to The Texas Tribune.
The impeachment proceedings are expected to take months. Additionally, the Travis County district attorney is considering filing criminal charges against Hall for allegedly violating privacy laws by sharing students’ records with the public.
Cassidy said Hall has unintentionally become “the best investigative reporter in Austin.”
“He’s found at least four indisputably serious scandals by turning over just a handful of rocks,” said Cassidy.