The Statesman reports today that HHSC’s chief counsel Jack Stick, former OIG director for enforcement, who steered business to an Austin software firm for OIG Medicaid fraud detection data mining software, has for years had close connections to the firm’s lobbyist, bringing up allegations of conflict of interest.
Contracts “loosely written and unusually vague”
Per the article, the new software is costing Texas $110 million and the two deals for it avoided the competitive bid process usually in place for government contracting. Mary Cheryl Dorwart of the Department of Information Resources which usually oversees such large contacts for Texas expressed concern that the deals with the firm 21CT are “loosely written and unusually vague.”
Stick approached the company in 2011
It was Stick, per the article, that approached the 21CT in the spring of 2011 although the firm had no prior experience with Medicaid. Stick, along with Inspector General Doug Wilson, lobbied for the money for the software and more staff during the last legislative session. Per the Sunset Commission report, the software has detected $41 million in possible fraud during 2014 out of a massive $24.2 billion Medicaid budget.
Stick has been friends with firm’s lobbyist James Frinzi since 1990s
The Statesman reported that Stick has known 21CT lobbyist James Frinzi since Frinzi was a student at Marquette University in the 1990s and Stick taught a course there. Frinzi stated that they became friends and were in business together in several companies from 2002 to at least 2007. Frinzi however said that they had trouble working together.
He told the Statesman that Stick “can just be a difficult person and kind of testy and irritating. He can be a personally polarizing individual. He was just kind of irritable.”
Software company and Frinzi deny conflict of interest allegations
Frinzi per 21CT did not start to work there until late 2013 and does not lobby for them in the state of Texas but Oklahoma. The firm also denies any conflict of interest.
Stick has controversial past yet promoted to HHSC chief counsel
Stick is still heading to court for a DWI charge that stems from a September 2011 arrest in Austin. The next hearing date is December 9th.
He is well-known among Medicaid providers who have been subject to OIG investigations for carrying a stuffed wolf to informal hearings and stating that “if Jesus Christ were a Medicaid provider, he could find a program violation on him.”
Stick was promoted to be HHSC’s top lawyer by Executive Commission Kyle Janek earlier this year.