When a state house panel convenes today to consider whether University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall Jr. should be impeached, the first witness is expected to be the representative who called for his ouster.
“I think Rep. (Jim) Pitts will start off tomorrow,” Rusty Hardin, counsel to the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, told the Statesman on Monday.
Hardin said Barry Burgdorf, former general counsel for the UT System who resigned that post under pressure, is also expected to testify Wednesday before the panel, which is charged with recommending whether the House should impeach Hall.
The list of other witnesses for the two days remains a work in progress, Hardin said. Committee members are expected to vote to subpoena some witnesses.
It seems unlikely that Hall would be called to testify this week. Allan Van Fleet, a lawyer for Hall, said “they haven’t given us a clue what they are doing.”
Pitts, R-Waxahachie, who is chairman of the Appropriations Committee, authored a resolution in June that called for articles of impeachment against Hall. Pitts complained about Hall’s extensive demands for records from UT-Austin and his failure to disclose some lawsuits on his application to become a regent. Earlier, Pitts said the actions of some regents amount to a “witch hunt” intended to oust UT-Austin President Bill Powers.
Hall has fought back through his lawyers, one of whom told the panel in a letter that Hall found correspondence showing that some state legislators exerted “undue influence” over admissions. A House member got his or her child admitted to a UT-Austin graduate school after the child was rejected, according to the lawyer.
Pitts, who plans to retire from the Legislature before it returns for the next regular session in 2015, has acknowledged writing a letter in behalf of his son’s application to the School of Law but says he didn’t exert undue influence.
Hall’s lawyers have sought permission to cross-examine witnesses, but the Transparency Committee has declined on the advice of Hardin, who said the proceedings are an investigation, not a trial.
Burgdorf, the former UT System general counsel, resigned under pressure after producing a report on forgivable loans extended to UT-Austin law professors by the UT Law School Foundation. Hall has said he doesn’t accept an assertion in the report that there is no evidence anyone at the foundation or Law School concealed the forgivable loan program.
Hearings live stream
The Transparency Committee’s hearings this week are scheduled to be live streamed via the Internet at www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio. Today’s hearing is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. The panel has tentatively scheduled additional hearings for Nov. 12-13 and Dec. 2-3.