Whitmire: Janek Must Go From Health and Human Services

Update: Second lawmaker call for resignation over contracts

Sen. John Whitmire
Sen. John Whitmire (Photo by Jana Birchum)

The ever-swirling controversy surrounding the Health and Human Services Commission could claim another head. Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, has called for Health and Human Services Commission Executive Director Kyle Janek to resign over allegations of multi-million dollar contract impropriety.

Former state senator Janek quit the Senate in 2008, and was appointed as executive commissioner by Gov. Rick Perry in Sept. 1, 2012. Since then, he's been an increasingly polarizing figure in connection with his agency's implementation of draconian abortion regulations and the recent closure of the state's assisted living facilities. None of that stopped his name coming up as a potential UT chancellor.

However, the Legislature has been paying closer attention to a 2011 no-bid contract with Austin-based software firm 21CT to provide Medicaid fraud detection services. There are real questions about how the firm got the contract, the vagueness of the deal, and exactly what Texas got for its $110 million investment. At the end of last year, Inspector General Doug Wilson was fired over concerns about how the contract was awarded. Then Janek's chief counsel, former Travis County state rep Jack Stick, quit and three more employees – including Stick and Wilson's wives, and Stick's former chief of staff Cody Cazares – have been suspended, pending a full investigation. Now the Austin-American Statesman and KVUE report that the FBI is looking into the issue.

Finally, the state's new leader seems to be taking a serious interest. Governor-elect Greg Abbott has added two names from differing ends of the ideological spectrum to his new "strike force" investigating the allegation: Former Center for Public Policy Priorities executive director F. Scott McCown, and Texas Public Policy Foundation director Talmadge Heflin. They'll join Texas A&M University System Executive Vice Chancellor Billy Hamilton and Texas Department of Agriculture CFO Heather Griffith Peterson.

So far, Janek has played a game of plausible deniability, but with his original political sponsor leaving the governor's mansion, that seems to be wearing a little thin. In a letter sent today, Whitmire said, "I believe it is abundantly clear that you have conflicted yourself out of being capable of running this crucially important state agency." More damningly, Whitmire added, "I have also come to believe that your repeated allegations of being misled are not supported by recent disclosures."

Whitmire Calls for Health and Human Services Chief's Resignation

UPDATE: A second lawmaker has officially asked for Janek to quit. Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, has submitted a second letter, calling for Janek to quit.

Rep. Coleman HHSC Resignation Statement

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More 84th Legislature
Lecturers Sue to Block Campus Carry
Lecturers Sue to Block Campus Carry
Do Texas concealed handgun rules break the Second Amendment?

Richard Whittaker, July 7, 2016

Texas Supremes: Not Our Job to Fix School Finance
Texas Supremes: Not Our Job to Fix School Finance
Long-awaited ruling says school funding system constitutional

Richard Whittaker, May 13, 2016

More Health and Human Services
How Much Will Texas Spend?
Budget in Progress
The Legislature's conference committee spending proposals

Richard Whittaker, May 21, 2015

The Sunset Shuffle
The Sunset Shuffle
Legislature moves the massive Health and Human Services review back two years

Richard Whittaker, May 31, 2009

More by Richard Whittaker
One in a Crowd: Vulcan Video Needs Your Help
One in a Crowd: Vulcan Video Needs Your Help
Keep the tapes rolling at Austin's VHS and DVD institution

May 23, 2019

RTX Orders a <i>Stuber</i>
RTX Orders a Stuber
Rooster Teeth snags special screening of the SXSW favorite

May 23, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

84th Legislature, Health and Human Services, Kyle Janek, John Whitmire, Medicaid

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle