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Hardin: Impeachment Recommendations Up to Committee

What the members of the legislative committee investigating a University of Texas System regent do with a report laying out four potential bases for his impeachment is "entirely up to them," the committee's special counsel said Thursday.

What the members of the legislative committee investigating University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall do with a report laying out four potential bases for his impeachment is "entirely up to them," Rusty Hardin, the committee's special counsel, told reporters on Thursday.

“I would not guess what their views as a committee are right now. I don’t know what their reactions are to the report. We haven’t talked to any of them about what they think of the report,” Hardin, a Houston-based attorney, said. “Look, it’s not easy reading. They may not have finished it yet.” 

In the report, Hardin and his colleagues concluded that Hall could be impeached for actions that they wrote "violated, and continue to violate, the Texas Education Code, the Texas Penal Code, the Board of Regents Rules and Regulations, and the best interests of The University of Texas System."

Hardin described the findings as "extremely troubling."

It remains to be seen whether the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations endorses those conclusions, recommends articles of impeachment to the full House of Representatives or refers any of the issues raised to law enforcement officials. 

Hall could not immediately be reached for comment. In a letter to the committee's co-chairs following the report's release, a lawyer for Hall wrote that the report reinforced the perspective that the committee's investigation was "a mechanism intended to chill the regents from performing their sworn duties." He also accused the committee of engaging "in a campaign to influence public impressions of Regent Hall for political purposes."

Hall became the subject of the impeachment investigation as a result of rising tensions stemming from his personal inquiries into operations at the University of Texas at Austin. Some lawmakers accused the regent of being on a "witch hunt" to oust Bill Powers, the university's president. Hall said he was fulfilling his oversight duties by looking into questionable practices, such as alleged favoritism in the admissions process.

Jeremy Monthy, a lawyer with Rusty Hardin & Associates, said the firm did not specifically weigh the merits of Hall's allegations against the university. While Hall might try to use the findings of his personal investigations to justify his behavior, Monthy said the lawyers were charged with focusing on Hall's actions. 

Hardin noted that the his firm's findings were hampered by the fact that Hall declined to testify before the committee, but said the report was "based on the facts as we understand it from the evidence we were able to view." He compared the complaints from Hall's lawyers to "the child who kills his parents and then complains that he is an orphan."

Hall refused to testify without being subpoenaed, and the committee declined to issue him a subpoena. Hardin said that compelling the subject of investigative hearings to testify in those hearings would have been "unseemly."

Hardin's contract with the committee ended on March 31. He said he did not yet know how much the committee will end up paying him for his services. 

The most surprising thing about the proceedings, Hardin said, was the intensity of  feelings on both sides of the issue. If you read coverage on the Internet, he said, "We are the embodinent of evil or we are doing the Lord's work."

"I've had death penalty cases as a prosecutor," he added. "None of them engendered this kind of feeling and passion."

While Hardin said he was unable to predict the committee's plans, he added, "It is our view that we hope the committee does something that tries to curb this conduct."

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. 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/2014/04/10/hardin-impeachment-recommendations-committee/.

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