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The Brief: Feb. 10, 2015

A handful of former HHSC employees are suing for wrongful termination in the aftermath of revelations over the awarding of a no-bid Medicaid fraud contract.

Irene Williams, CEO of 21CT, and Jack Stick, a top attorney at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

The Big Conversation

The Houston Chronicle's Brian Rosenthal has more on the aftermath of the Jack Stick/21CT scandal at the Health and Human Services Commission, following up on a couple of former employees suing for wrongful termination:

(Leah Rayne) is among dozens of people who have become collateral damage of the scandal over $110 million in Medicaid fraud detection contracts Stick gave to Austin technology company 21CT.

At least four other former employees are suing the health agency, alleging wrongful termination or other mistreatment under Stick's watch. Others say they were forced out after becoming uncomfortable with investigative quotas that he established and the state eliminated soon after he left. And some of the 65 people laid off from 21CT after it lost the contract have yet to find new jobs.

...

Former state employees were more willing to talk, especially about Stick's quotas, which were unpopular with the staff.

The new standards required fraud investigators to produce cases worth at least $35,000 each month. That led to significantly more money being identified by the agency as potential fraud each year, but, as a recent state Sunset Advisory Commission report found, may not have increased actual recoveries.

"There were definitely people who were playing with the numbers, trying to hit that number," said John Agosta, a former welfare fraud investigator in San Antonio who said he left last year because of stresses related to the quotas.

The Day Ahead

•    The House convenes at 10 a.m.; the Senate convenes at 11 a.m.

•    Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is expected to make an announcement on border security after the Senate meets.

•    House Appropriations meets at 7:30 a.m. to hear budget recommendations on public education funding, the state's largest retirement systems and funding for the Medicaid program (E1.030)

•    Senate Finance meets at 9 a.m. to consider the portion of the budget dealing with higher education (E1.036)

Trib Must-Reads

Texas Has High Stakes in Lawsuit Over Health Law, by Edgar Walters

West Texas Site Wants Nation's Spent Nuclear Fuel, by Jim Malewitz

Perry Steps Into the Politics of Vaccination, by Abby Livingston

Bill Would Expand DNA Testing for Criminal Cases, by Ryan McCrimmon

Elsewhere

Universities need to retain control over tuition, A&M finalist says, Austin American-Statesman

Education lobbies want $200 million boost for schools, Austin American-Statesman

After years of setbacks, Texas school choice advocates closer to goal, The Dallas Morning News

Health-Law Challenger’s Standing in Supreme Court Case Is Questioned, Wall Street Journal

Potential 2016 candidates prime Iowa, New Hampshire with cash, Center for Public Integrity

More Republicans reject Grand Prairie developer’s donations after domestic abuse plea emerges, The Dallas Morning News

Feds say Canseco took foreign campaign cash in 2010, Houston Chronicle

Alamo erosion said to be 'well underway’, San Antonio Express-News

Quote to Note

“And all this affects poor people harder. The jobs are more based on weather. And when there are hurricanes, when there is flooding, who gets hit the worst? The people on the poor side of town.”

Alfredo Padilla of Carrizo Springs, to The New York Times in a survey that finds Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to see global warming as something that impacts them personally

News From Home

During the legislative session, we're compiling "hot lists" of issues across key policy areas. This week, the featured list on our Lege page is Higher Ed. Subscribe to our Trib+Edu newsletter for more education news.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Houston & the Legislature: Previewing the 84th Session on Feb. 12 at the Wortham Center in Houston

•    A Conversation With State Rep. John Otto, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, on Feb. 12 at the Austin Club

•    A Conversation With U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro on Feb. 19 at The Austin Club

•    Immigration: The Next Five Years on Feb. 27 at at the University of Texas at Brownsville

•    A Conversation With State Sen. Kel Seliger and State Rep. John Zerwas on March 5 at the Austin Club

•    Meet the Mayors: Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price on March 12 at The Austin Club

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