UT regent facing possible ouster won't testify

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Associated Press

Posted on December 18, 2013 at 8:02 AM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — An embattled University of Texas regent facing a rare threat of impeachment won't testify as expected this week to a House committee investigating his actions, lawmakers said Tuesday.

Regent Wallace Hall is accused of misusing his office in an attempt to force out Austin campus president Bill Powers, who received a cautious endorsement last week from the UT chancellor that keeps him running the 50,000-student campus.

Leaders of a House transparency committee that is scheduled to reconvene Wednesday expressed disappointed that Hall won't testify. It came after Hall's attorney told the committee Monday there remained "confusion" surrounding lawmakers' intentions.

"Our invitation to Regent Hall still stands. We are eager to hear from him, and are prepared to accommodate his testimony," Democrat Carol Alvarado and Republican Dan Flynn said in a statement.

If the committee recommends impeachment, the matter would go to the full House and Hall could be removed from office.

Powers and UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa are expected to testify to the committee.

Lawmakers are investigating several allegations against Hall, including whether he withheld information on his application for appointment, abused open records laws with requests for more than 800,000 pages of documents and released private student or employee information.

Hall's lawyer, Allan Van Fleet, has said his client's efforts raised important questions about political influence over university admissions, fundraising and a law school loan program. He has denied Hall released any legally protected information to the public.

In October, Hall indicated that he was willing to testify — but he wanted to be subpoenaed. That could potentially give Hall some legal protections if he's asked to divulge confidential information.

Van Fleet said Hall still wants to discuss challenges facing the UT system, but under conditions that protect "against retribution."

The House committee is reconvening a week after Powers kept his job following a high-stakes regents meeting. Powers has helmed UT's flagship campus since 2006 but has clashed with Cigarroa and regents over higher education issues.

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Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber

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