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Rep aims to oust UT Regent, citing ‘witch hunt’ against Powers

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TWC News: Rep aims to oust UT Regent, citing ‘witch hunt’ against Powers
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Texas lawmakers have been taking a closer look at the internal communications of the University Of Texas Board Of Regents this legislative session. In April, the regents agreed to turn over their correspondence to the Capitol.

The records were requested by a newly reconvened joint committee that was formed to look into “micro-management” by the regents. Certain legislators say the records could prove there has been a "witch hunt" by the Regents against UT President Bill Powers.

But for Republican Jim Pitts, he hopes to take it one step further and strip UT Regent Wallace Hall from his position entirely.

Pitts accuses Hall of trying to find anything to discredit Powers. Hall has requested emails from the UT president - even post-it notes from his office - using the open records act. Pitts says Hall’s requests are an abuse of his right to public information.

"'To date, what has these email requests turned up? Nothing,” Pitts said. “Are they a waste of time? A complete waste of time and money. And complete harassment for the University of Texas at Austin."

Hall failed to inform legislators of his potential business conflicts when he applied for the regent position, according to public records.

The House Appropriations Chair says the time is now to hold Hall accountable.

In order for Rep. Pitts to impeach Hall, he must first have support of 76 house members.

Local attorney and UT graduate Hector Deleon agrees with Pitts, and believes Hall has failed his statutory duties to the state's flagship school.

"That certainly seems to justify the sorts of actions being called upon by Chairman Pitts,” Deleon said.

Hall is a Gov. Perry appointee. State law allows the house to move on certain impeachments without the governor's approval.

The governor’s office released the following statement to YNN Friday:

It is as appropriate for a university’s board of regents to demand transparency from member schools, as it is for the legislature to demand transparency from a board of regents.

However, if media reports are true that Chairman Pitts’s efforts could be motivated by attempts to conceal emails that include information about members of the Legislature requesting admission to the UT law school on behalf of others, this is a very alarming development.

These threats could have a profoundly chilling effect on the mission of regents to hold member schools accountable and ask necessary, if sometimes difficult questions.

To date, Hall has refused YNN’s interview requests.

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