Attorney: Secret tape covered up by lawmakers proves regent’s innocence

HALL: Wallace Hall’s attorneys accused a legislative committee of covering up exculpatory evidence.

By Jon Cassidy | Watchdog.org

HOUSTON — A legislative committee investigating University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall is “withholding information from the District Attorney and the public that will exonerate Regent Hall from all of the committee’s charges,” Hall’s lawyers say.

In a Tuesday letter, Hall’s attorney Allan Van Fleet said the committee knows the accusations it has lodged against Hall are false because it has heard a key piece of evidence it hasn’t shared with anyone else — an audio recording of the Aug. 22, 2013, UT Board of Regents meeting.

Most of the members of the legislative committee will gather Monday to decide whether they’ve come up with a plausible reason to recommend the House impeach Hall, although Rep. Naomi Gonzalez won’t be able to attend. She’s in jail for driving while intoxicated.

The committee already has referred the matter to another official best known for public drunkenness, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, so her office can consider bringing a novel criminal charge against Hall for sharing two emails with his attorney.

Van Fleet asked the committee two weeks ago to share a copy of the recording with Lehmberg’s office, which it didn’t do.

“Your failure to provide this evidence increases our concern that the committee is engaged in a process to manipulate official proceedings for the purpose of interfering in the Board’s investigations, personnel matters and other activities,” Van Fleet wrote. “By withholding the recording of the Aug. 23, 2013 Board meeting, the committee is covering up facts that will prove its allegations are false.”

Lawmakers have tried to portray Hall as some loner on a search for any excuse to remove UT President Bill Powers, but the recording makes it clear that much of the board, as well as the chancellor’s office, also thinks Powers needs to go.

The recording is proof of “the actual pressures surrounding the Chancellor’s decisions” and of “the exact position of the entire Board on the issue of President Powers’ continued employment,” Van Fleet wrote.

The letter also provided a succinct refutation of the kitchen sink full of charges the committee has thrown at Hall.

Van Fleet points out, contrary to accusations, Hall fully disclosed pending litigation on his application, and he wasn’t National Review reporter Kevin Williamson’s source for a story about a state representative who pulled strings to help his own son get into UT’s law school.

Van Fleet points out federal student privacy law could only have been violated if Hall had no “educational purpose” for his review of UT records.

“The committee is alleging there was no ‘educational purpose’ for possessing FERPA-related information as a means to intimidate Regents from reviewing admissions data that is at the core of apparent improper activities,” Van Fleet wrote. “This is despite the fact that Regents have absolute authority to make determinations for themselves about what constitutes educational purpose.”

Van Fleet said Hall had every reason to hold Powers to national accounting standards.

“The committee fails to respect that, as a member of the Board of Regent’s Finance and Planning Committee and the Audit, Compliance, and Management Review Committee, no one has more direct responsibility for the UT System on this issue than Regent Hall,” Van Fleet said.

Finally, Van Fleet points out once again the charge that Hall’s records review has been an undue burden on UT officials is supported by nothing more than exaggerations and “false allegations that Regent Hall made ‘1,200 TPIA requests,’ demanded ‘800,000 pages.’”

“Hall actually made five (5) TPIA requests, four of which produced fewer than 100 pages in total (while the fifth pending request has so far produced roughly 2,860 pages). The Chancellor also stated that Regent Hall’s total requests produced ‘fewer than 100,000 pages’ and that this resulted because he asked to see what others had already requested.”

Van Fleet called on the committee to release the recording to the district attorney and the public.

Contact Jon Cassidy at jon@watchdog.org or @jpcassidy000. If you would like to send him documents or messages anonymously, download the Tor browser and go to our SecureDrop submission page: http://5bygo7e2rpnrh5vo.onion

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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