The investigative digging of the Texas media into the operations of state government has once again revealed to the public, otherwise blissfully ignorant, the tremendous apparent hypocrisy of several state officials who view their positions as the divine right of kings rather than stewards of fiscal responsibility for their citizens.
Attorney General paying $29,000 a month to staff after they resigned
In a startling revelation, the Dallas Morning News reported last week that Attorney General Ken Paxton has been continuing to pay full salaries to two individuals from his staff who had resigned in early March, were no longer working there and had been instantly replaced.
It was already bad week for Paxton as the Security and Exchange Commission had a few days earlier levied civil fraud charges against him in addition to the criminal charges he is already facing.
Former aide had new job the day after resignation but still got paid
The DMN reported that former first assistant Attorney General Chip Roy and communications director Allison Castle were replaced the day after their apparent resignations yet were continuing to draw $16,220.62 and $12,825 a month respectively.
Adding insult to injury, Roy started work the very next day after his resignation as the executive director of the Trusted Leadership PAC which supports the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz. Roy was previously Cruz’s chief of staff in the U.S. Senate.
Roy has since fully resigned and told the press he was really only on “leave” from the OAG (although he no longer worked there and was showing up somewhere else for work) so he could continue to receive his state health benefits as he was recovering from cancer. He was just informed he now had a clean bill of health so he could “fully resign.” Nice. (The DMN has original documents in its story which are worth a read.)
The situation with Castle has not been clarified but she continues to get paid.
Agriculture commissioner being investigated by Texas Rangers for using state funds for personal use
And if this were not enough last week, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is now under investigation by the Texas Rangers for apparently using state funds for personal trips. His communication director Lucy Nashed resigned early last week because the “official” story about the reason for the trips kept changing.
Reminiscent of HHSC scandals with executive staff
These incidents bring back memories of former Health and Human Services Commission chief counsel Jack Stick and his $2,800 executive chairs and his funneling of a $20 million no-bid contract for Medicaid fraud detection software to 21CT and its executive director with whom he had friendly relations. Or the $100,000 that former HHSC executive commissioner Kyle Janek gave to one of his staff for his MBA, in violation of state rules.
Why bring this up?
Bad example for Medicaid providers
The majority of Medicaid providers work hard to provide the needed health care for indigent Texans covered by the program,
Providers accept low reimbursement rates, lots of red tape and the possibility of investigators looking over their practices for any possible overpayment and being accused of fraud.
Look what Antoine Dental Center has gone through despite impartial courts finding the practice innocent.
Attorney General responsible for prosecuting Medicaid fraud, waste, and abuse
The official line is that “fraud, waste and abuse” cannot be tolerated in Texas. Yet, as in the case with Stick et al and now apparently Paxton, who is responsible for ultimately prosecuting Medicaid fraud, the hypocrisy is that state rules or laws can be bent if not broken by officials and that being a good caretaker of state funds doesn’t apply to them.
When a Medicaid doctor can be indicted and arrested for $300 elsewhere in the country, the upper echelons of Texas government appear to be a dream world in which the loss of tens of thousands of dollars don’t really matter as long as they do it.
Look at the manpower and money the Civil Medicaid division of the OAG has put into going after Medicaid dentists. If these state officials were Medicaid dentists, they would be under criminal investigation, placed on an immediate payment hold with an overpayment demand in the mail.
An impartial investigation is needed
There are definitely two standards in Texas.
An impartial Sunset Advisory Commission-type of review needs to be done. Look what the Sunset Commission found when their staff looked into the HHSC Office of Inspector General and the total revamp and reform of the agency that resulted. All for the good of the taxpayer and due process.
The same kind of thing appears to be going on elsewhere. The media can only do so much on its own.