Texas regents chairman asks Wallace Hall to resign

FILE - In this July 10, 2013, file photo, Regent Wallace Hall, of Dallas, takes part in a University of Texas Regents meeting in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

AUSTIN (AP) — The chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents urged embattled Regent Wallace Hall to resign Thursday, saying his efforts to oust the president of the Austin campus and the criminal and legislative investigations that resulted have harmed the board.

Chairman Paul Foster called for the resignation at a board meeting four days after a House panel voted that grounds exist to impeach Hall, a move that could lead to Hall being the first governor-appointed official removed from office in state history.

Hall did not resign and left the meeting without comment. Hall is also facing a separate criminal probe by Travis County prosecutors. He has denied breaking any laws.

Foster called the controversies surrounding Hall “the most difficult, challenging issue facing this board” and its future. Foster said he’s watched the House investigation of Hall and the message from lawmakers was clear that Hall should go.

Several lawmakers also had called on Hall to resign and for the board to hold a “no confidence” vote on him. Foster refused to hold such a vote, but said “something must change.”

“I urge you to take a selfless step to benefit the UT System and to resign,” Foster said, while adding he admired Hall’s tenacity and passion. “I implore you to deal with the result of your actions that now have the potential to result in significant consequences for the UT System.”

Hall, a Dallas businessman appointed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011, has been accused of abusing the power of his office through massive open records requests that swamped university and system officials, as well as whether he violated state and federal student privacy laws and harmed the university’s reputation.

Perry has remained steadfast in his support of Hall. Each of the board’s nine members are Perry appointees.

Hall isn’t the only board member who has clashed with UT Austin President Bill Powers over myriad issues, including tuition and graduation rates and the role of teaching and research in education. But it has been Hall’s aggressive and relentless pursuit of records and questions over Powers’ leadership that drew scrutiny from lawmakers. Powers has enjoyed strong support from the Legislature as well as powerful alumni and financial donors to the school.

Regent Jeff Hildebrand of Houston, who sits next to Hall at the board meetings, joined Foster’s call for Hall to resign.

“The controversy has far too long consumed the system’s resources,” Hildebrand said. “I think we have lost the confidence and trust of many people in the state of Texas.”

Hall also had his supporters. Former chairman Gene Powell defended Hall, and regent Alex Cranberg said Hall asked tough questions that produced positive change even if he was sometimes “obnoxious” doing it.

“It is not now prudent to remove Regent Hall,” Cranberg said in written remarks. “The chorus against him has at times taken on the tenor of a lynch mob.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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