Whitmire: Janek Must Go From Health and Human Services
Update: Second lawmaker call for resignation over contracts
By Richard Whittaker,
5:00PM, Thu. Jan. 15, 2015
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."
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.