October 29, 2006
HHSC commissioner fails to disclose financial info

And another story you may not have seen, via Ramblings of an HHSC Employee: Health and Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins has failed to disclose his ties to a non-profit that has received millions of dollars from the state of Texas.

Democratic candidate Chris Bell is raising ethical concerns about one of Perry’s top appointees. Bell says Hawkins--the executive commissioner for Texas Health and Human Services is on the board of a non-profit organization that's received more than a million dollars in state contracts.

State lawmakers and heads of state agencies control billions of taxpayer dollars and to make sure the public knows if one of the decision-makers benefits from any of the state contracts, officials are required to file personal financial statements with the Texas Ethics Commission.

They must disclose if they have a relationship with any business or organizations.

CBS 42 pulled commissioner Hawkins filings for the past three years and found he did not disclose his position as a member of the board of trustees for the Texas Institute of Health Policy Research.

In the past couple of years, the group has been awarded more than a million dollars in consulting contracts by the state.

Hawkins is listed on the group's Web site and in the group's IRS tax returns. He was appointed to the position by Governor Rick Perry.

CBS 42 caught up with Perry on the campaign trail.

"Number one that's news to me," Perry said. "If that's a conflict we'll get it addressed quickly."

Of course it's news to Rick Perry. He doesn't concern himself with this kind of trivia.

"The problem you have with this kind of behavior is people in power can steer state contracts to organizations and charities they are involved in and can influence state policy," said Public Citizen spokesman Tom Smitty Smith. "It's a double edge sword."

Failing to disclose such relationships is both a civil and criminal violation.

Commissioner Hawkins spokesperson released this statement, "commissioner Hawkins considered this as an honorary position and never attended any meetings. But, nevertheless, he will file a corrected financial statement."

CBS 42 will let you know what happens.

I'll tell you what has happened so far: No news stories have yet reported Commissioner Hawkins's compliance with state law. The Statesman picked up the story yesterday, with both Hawkins and Perry spokesman Robert Black whining about how mean it was of Bell to point out Hawkins' ethical lapse. Strangely, neither one of them mentioned this fact:

According to state law, Hawkins should have disclosed the board affiliation to the state ethics commission. He said Monday he will amend his personal financial statement.

Emphasis mine. Hawkins failed to live up to his responsibilities. He can complain about the timing of the revelation all he wants, but the fault is his. If Rick Perry cared about this sort of thing, if it were a priority for his administration, maybe Hawkins would have been in compliance all along and we wouldn't be talking about this. But he doesn't, and Hawkins didn't. They can blame Bell all they want for their own shortcomings, but it doesn't change the facts.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 29, 2006 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack