By Jon Cassidy | Watchdog.org
Sentences, like investigations, should have a subject.
But state Rep. Dan Flynn does things his own way, kicking off a nine-page letter to his colleagues on a legislative committee with a rambling, incoherent, ungrammatical sentence that mirrors his committee’s investigation in its lack of a subject, or a point. This was on purpose.
Flynn’s aim was nothing so novel as producing the world’s first 63-word sentence fragment; rather, he’s up to an old trick, one of the oldest dodges in existence: praising the ends while denouncing the means. I like what you did; I hate how you did it.
So it is that on the eve of his committee’s meeting to decide whether to impeach Wallace Hall, a regent of the University of Texas, Flynn acknowledges Hall has uncovered four genuine scandals — off-the-books payments at UT Law, apparent favoritism in admissions, UT’s obstinate refusal to produce records required of it, and no-bid contracts with Accenture rife with conflicts of interest.
He even demands further investigation of them. Yet he still finds a way to demand Hall’s “immediate resignation” and lecture him on his “tactics, methods and approach,” which were “wrong, misdirected and without merit.”
Flynn and his ironically named Transparency Committee are set to meet Monday to vote on recommending Hall’s impeachment. That recommendation appears ever more unlikely, as Flynn himself now writes that Hall’s “obnoxious attitude and blatant disregard for procedure alone (sic) is (sic) simply not a (sic) reason to impeach.”
Another committee member, Rep. Eric Johnson, responded to Flynn with another letter quickly made public, disputing several of Flynn’s points, which he “found somewhat confusing.”
“Confusing” doesn’t do justice to Flynn’s achievement; his letter is a masterpiece of misdirection, an absolute riot of contradiction and doublespeak.
On the one hand, Flynn repeatedly demands Hall’s resignation and threatens to proceed with impeachment if the UT System doesn’t take certain actions. On the other, Flynn eviscerates all four charges against Hall that the committee’s attorney came up with. To take just the most head-spinning example, Flynn ridicules the charge that Hall’s requests for information were “unreasonable and burdensome” by taking, almost verbatim, a half-dozen arguments first made by Watchdog.org.
Johnson’s somewhat less confusing position is that the committee must now come to some sort of final decision, but should also wait for the Travis County District Attorney to finish its pretend investigation into Hall before deciding on the impeachment recommendation.
What you’re seeing here is some of the lesser lights, frankly, in the Legislature realizing they’ve been used. Their job was to shut Hall up, whether they all knew it or not, but some of them are realizing, and acknowledging, Hall’s investigations have uncovered actual wrongdoing, while their own investigation has produced Rusty Hardin’s giant nothingburger of a report.
“If mismanagement exists at the University of Texas, and this committee chooses to follow through with articles of impeachment, it would send the wrong message,” Flynn writes.
As the truth gradually becomes apparent to all — that university officials and powerful lawmakers have been misbehaving — the lawmakers on this committee risk permanent disgrace for participating in this abuse of power. What they need now is some face-saving way to wrap up their work without admitting it was a waste of time and money. Expect more finger-wagging at Hall’s methods, with some qualified praise for his results.
Flynn does that throughout his letter, blaming UT for not giving Hall the records he requested, while simultaneously asking, “Why didn’t the Chancellor or Chairman of the Board show the strength of character and leadership and just say no” to Hall’s requests. “Why did it take a legislative committee spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to do something that would, in the business world, not be tolerated?”
That sentence, read literally, is a self-indictment, an admission that spending so much money on his own investigation should be intolerable. It also hides his meaning. What was intolerable? Who is he blaming? As Johnson noted, “it is unclear … exactly whose behavior you are decrying …”
“It makes one believe that either this is poor management or something else was being hidden from taxpayers and the Legislature,” Flynn writes. A few sentences later, he demands to know why the results of an investigation into admissions favoritism are being withheld from his committee. When that story breaks, he’ll be able to say he knew something was amiss.
Flynn then proposes “requiring” 10 steps from the UT System, requirements the committee has no lawful authority to impose on anyone.
Then it’s back to demanding Hall’s “immediate resignation,” while admitting “his actions do not merit levels (sic) of impeachment.” However, if the UT System doesn’t make the requested changes and Hall doesn’t resign, the committee might proceed with impeachment after all, and bill the system for the cost.
I don’t think anyone buys for a moment that Flynn is going to proceed with impeachment on a bunch of pretexts he just ridiculed. But whether his conscience just kicked in, or he realized he was being used, or he knows what’s coming in that admissions favoritism report, it’s clear he’s speedwalking away from this stinker of an investigation.
Let’s see how many of his colleagues get the hint.
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