Southwest Key & Their Contracts

County votes to continue contract with nonprofit, city to deliberate on Aug. 30

Demonstrators protest outside the Austin home of Southwest Key's CEO back in June of 2018
Demonstrators protest outside the Austin home of Southwest Key's CEO back in June of 2018 (by Jana Birchum)

County commissioners also voted unanimously to renew their contract with Southwest Key for prevention and intervention services for at-risk children on Tuesday. Despite the local nonprofit's involvement in housing migrant children, including those who were recently separated from their families by the federal government, and its record of alleged employee mistreatment, commissioners rejected activists' calls to end all contracts with the group. The contract is one of six SWKey contracts with the county that deals with juvenile justice programs; votes to renew others are likely before the end of the year.

County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said there is "no doubt" commissioners are concerned about the nonprofit's participation in the former separation policy, as well as its CEO Juan Sanchez's comparably hefty $1.5 million salary, but the program in question is a valuable one that helps a population in need. The juvenile probation and purchasing departments have also given no reason to discontinue the program. "We often talk about that it's not enough to look good, you have to actually do good, too," said Eckhardt. "This may be a circumstance where extending these contracts doesn't look good, but it actually does good. It's an odd set of circumstances we find ourselves in."

Meanwhile, Austin City Council is likely to discuss its relationship with SWKey on Aug. 30. Pio Renteria, with co-sponsors Greg Casar, Delia Garza, and Ann Kitchen, offered a resolution to direct the city manager to develop recommendations to ensure that Austin "does not provide financial support to organizations whose activities result in the separation of children from their parents and/or siblings or that result in the mass incarceration of immigrant children." The resolution includes a review of existing contracts that may be in conflict with that goal. City documents show the Hispanic/Latino Quality of Life Resource Advisory Commission and other community groups have already recommended the city "cancel all contracts with organizations involved in the separation of families." While city contracts with SWKey have totaled around a combined $1 million over the years, according to Southwest Key the only current contract with the city is a $15,000 agreement for support for the Latino Arts Preservation Project.

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  

More Southwest Key
Southwest Key Faces Student Walkout
Southwest Key Faces Student Walkout
East Austin College Prep youth challenge embattled nonprofit

Mary Tuma, Dec. 21, 2018

Point Austin: Southwest Key and Us
Point Austin: Southwest Key and Us
Local refugee empire is a symptom of bigger troubles

Michael King, Dec. 14, 2018

More by Mary Tuma
SCOTUS Protects Abortion Rights, Upholds Texas Precedent
SCOTUS Protects Abortion Rights, Upholds Texas Precedent
Roberts concurs with majority to strike down Louisiana measure

June 29, 2020

Pro-Choice Groups Strike Back at Malicious Abortion Foe
Pro-Choice Groups Strike Back at Malicious Abortion Foe
Leader of small-town ban effort slapped with defamation suit

June 11, 2020


Southwest Key, Sarah Eckhardt, Juan Sanchez, City Council, Pio Renteria

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

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

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