A Lone Voice of Reason

Yesterday the ironically titled Texas House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations finally met in public to hear allegations against UT Regent Wallace Hall. Sadly, only one member of the committee dared to act as a voice of reason throughout day one of this charade.

To recap, the committee called Rep. Jim Pitts, the retiring House Chairman of Appropriations, as its first witness. Mr. Pitts, who filed the original house resolution to impeach Mr. Hall, recently announced his retirement amidst controversy over his efforts to influence the University of Texas School of Law to admit his adult son.

As the allegations developed throughout the day, the complaint against Regent Hall seems to be twofold. First, he is accused of asking for every open record request received by the University of Texas over a period of time and the documents responsive to those requests. This was apparently too much of a burden on the University, even though the documents should have already been available given that they had previously been requested. Second, it was alleged that Regent Hall didn’t fully disclose every lawsuit he had been a party to in his regent application.

The members of the committee mostly went along with everything Rep. Pitts claimed. Fortunately there was one lone voice of reason on the committee, Rep. Charles Perry. Perry is a Republican from the Lubbock area who was elected in 2010 after defeating long-time moderate incumbent Delwin Jones.

Rep. Charles Perry was the lone voice of reason on the committee. Rep. Charles Perry was the lone voice of reason on the committee.

Perry was quick to point out that the second part of Pitts’ claim had been debunked after a letter-addendum to Hall’s application was discovered in which he offered more details about litigation with which he was involved in his professional capacity. Perry read the letter into the record and pointed out that any failure to identify Regent Hall’s involvement in litigation was a failure of the vetting process and that all evidence shows that Hall went into the process in good faith.

Watchdog.org has provided a very thorough debunking of the claim that Hall withheld information about his litigation history, providing evidence that virtually every regent to a public university in Texas has failed to include everything possible on their disclosure.

Perry also frequently pointed out that the committee had yet to hear from Wallace Hall and that they shouldn’t question his motives until he has had an opportunity to defend himself. It is unclear when that opportunity will come, since Hall’s attorney Allen Van Fleet has said that the committee has failed to inform them of their upcoming plans. The committee has not subpoenaed Hall to testify and, until now, has only subpoenaed witnesses who are expected to parrot the accusations of Rep. Pitts.

In a very telling admission, Rep. Pitts spoke about his real motivations for trying to impeach Hall. He accused Hall and his “friends” (read: Texans for Fiscal Responsibility) of a “concerted effort to destroy certain members of the Texas legislature.”

The Committee on “Transparency” is all about stifling tough questions and attacking critics of the establishment. But it is good to see that there is at least one Representative on the committee who isn’t going along with the dog and pony show. Kudos to Rep. Perry for taking steps to ask tough questions of Rep. Pitts and the other accusers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel for Empower Texans. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony received his J.D. in 2012 from UT Law School. While in school, Tony served as Senior Vice Chairman for Young Conservatives of Texas and helped manage its legislative affairs. During the 83rd Texas Legislature he served as Chief of Staff for Rep. Jonathan Stickland. Tony resides in Austin and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.

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