The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations met Tuesday to hear testimony on the possible impeachment of Regent Wallace Hall.
The committee is considering impeaching Hall because — among other reasons — he has filed multiple broad open records requests with the University, supposedly placing a burden on the University and requiring the University to hire more people to deal with the large capacity of requests. Some Texas legislators have called Hall’s requests a “witch hunt” with the goal of removing UT President William Powers Jr. On Aug. 15, Hall’s lawyers sent a letter to the co-chairs of the committee, defending Hall’s actions and claiming Texas lawmakers had unduly influenced UT student admissions.
On Tuesday, members of the committee questioned Kevin Hegarty, UT vice president and chief financial officer, along with open records coordinator Carol Longoria.
Hegarty said prior to Oct. 5, 2012, the open records office employed one full-time person and one part-time person, but Hall’s requests increased the office’s workload so much it had to hire more employees.
“Now, on any given day, we could have as many as seven people,” Hegarty said. “We have three [who] dedicated 100 percent of their time, and I might say we never had an attorney in the group, and now we need [one]. Attorneys are more expensive than other folks.”
Hegarty said the open records office was not able to keep up with Hall’s requests because he sent simultaneous requests and gave the office very short time periods to send the information.
“It wasn’t fast enough for the board, and I was told continually it’s not fast enough for Regent Hall,” Hegarty said.
Longoria said she and her colleagues frequently worked late into the night to meet Hall’s deadlines, often until 10:30 or 11 p.m.
Hall’s attorney, Allan Van Fleet, said Hall filed some open records requests as a citizen instead of as a regent because doing so allows him to receive information sooner. He did not request protected information, Van Fleet said.
“He was specifically saying, ‘Not interested, do not want FERPA information, do not want HIPAA information,’” Van Fleet said. “As he got more and further advice from the counsel, he would say, ‘Also not Social Security, also not income tax records.’ He was upfront in saying he didn’t want that stuff.”
Van Fleet said Hall never improperly distributed records.
Longoria said the system made her feel like she was not allowed to consult the Attorney General or any other legal counsel, Longoria said.
“I was very concerned that I was being unwittingly asked to do something potentially illegal, and I didn’t want to be a party to that,” Longoria said.
The committee will continue its meeting Wednesday.