Wallace Hall Case Will Come Before Grand Jury


University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall, speaking at a Texas Tribune event on Thursday, said he does not feel "in any way diminished" after a recent vote to admonish and censure him by a legislative committee. He also said he was "comfortable" with his actions being investigated by the Travis County district attorney's office, which has confirmed that it intends to put the case before a grand jury in the near future.

Hall has been a lightning rod for controversy for much of his time on the system's board of regents, to which he was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011. Much of his time has been digging into the operations at the University of Texas at Austin, which is also his alma mater.

Hall has been accused by lawmakers and even fellow regents of being on a "witch hunt" to oust Bill Powers, the university's president. At Thursday's event, Hall said that notion was untrue.

"Where's the motive?" he asked. 

Hall contended that he was duty-bound to look into activities at the university that he believed were not above board. He has alleged that the school's admissions are subject to undue political influence, questioned the accounting in their capital campaign and pushed for futher investigation into a controversial payment structure at the law school.

On Aug. 11, 2014, after investigating Hall for more than a year, the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations voted 6-1 to admonish and censure him for “misconduct, incompetency in the performance of official duties, or behavior unbefitting a nominee for and holder of a state office.” The committee had previously approved a motion saying that the grounds to move forward with articles of impeachment against Hall existed, and the lawmakers left the door open to pursuing such action in the future. 

"If the transparency committee truly thought I had violated the law, don't you think they should have brought articles of impeachment against me?" Hall said on Thursday.

The committee's investigation, particularly a determination that Hall's sharing of private student information with his lawyers may have been inappropriate, did prompt Travis County prosecutors to launch a criminal investigation of Hall. That investigation is ongoing. 

Gregg Cox, the director of the public integrity unit in the Travis County district attorney's office, told the Tribune on Wednesday that he intends to take witnesses to the grand jury in the near future and is hopeful that the case will be resolved bu the end of the year, if not sooner.

Hall's term on the board does not expire until 2017. Meanwhile, the landscape at UT is changing rapidly.

In July, under pressure, Powers  submitted his resignation, which will be effective in June 2015. Francisco Cigarroa, the system's chancellor, will be stepping down at the end of the year. He will be replaced by Admiral William H. McRaven, the former head of U.S. Special Operations Command.

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


This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2014/09/04/wallace-hall-appears-triblive/.

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