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More on Gregg Phillips

The Gunther Concept is still digging into Gregg Phillips’ background (see this post for more). He’s also still got Blogspotted links, so if this has scrolled off the top, look for the June 24 entry entitled “The Revolving Door of Gregg Phillips”. Apparently, Phillips’ official bio leaves out some of his recent employment history. Here’s Gunther’s summary of the situation:

So to sum up, Gregg Phillips was at one time the Director of Mississippi’s Department of Human Services. He resigned as Director to accept a position with a firm that he had previously approved as recipient of a $875,000 contract with MDHS. At some time or another, he founds and becomes CEO of Enterject, Inc. Enterject gets a large portion of it’s business by helping private companies get tax credits from federal Welfare to Work (WTW) programs, and various similar schemes that allow governments to cut welfare rolls. Phillips worked in this capacity at least until the fall of 2002. Now he is in a position where one of his primary responsibilities will be to reorganize Texas’ social service sector, to make it more “efficient”.

How much of this reorganization will involve granting of tax credits to companies that hire long-term welfare recipients?

How much business will Enterject, Inc. receive as a result of these changes?

Does Gregg Phillips still have any role with Enterject, Inc.?

Will he immediately start working for Enterject when he eventually leaves his current position?

Is there anyone out there who thinks this is a conflict of interest?

Why does’t anyone know about this?

I think those are fair questions to ask, and it would be nice if we knew the answers to them. It is possible that this is much ado about nothing, but I’d still like to know that someone with the time and training to know what to look for has checked it out first.

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  1. R.J. Ruff says:

    HoustonChronicle.com
    http://www.HoustonChronicle.com
    Section: Local & State
    This article is: http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/metropolitan/1961899

    June 22, 2003, 2:23PM

    Man with a mission leaves some dubious
    TASK IS TO OVERHAUL TEXAS SOCIAL SERVICES
    By POLLY ROSS HUGHES
    Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

    AUSTIN — Death threats arrived and a brick flew through a window of his
    family home, Gregg A. Phillips recalls of his first attempt to dismantle and
    privatize government-run services for the needy.

    The man recruited to be Texas’ $144,700-a-year leader of the most sweeping
    social services overhaul in modern Texas history learned some of his lessons
    the hard way.

    After three tumultuous years as former Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice’s young
    political choice to lead a major overhaul of that state’s Department of
    Human Services, the embattled executive director could no longer stand the
    heat. Facing a tidal wave of opposition, he resigned in 1995.

    State employees protested privatization of child support collections.
    Legislators, upset by the issue and at odds with Fordice, threatened to
    close the agency. Advocates for the poor called Phillips a liar, and a
    Jackson Clarion-Ledger editorial cartoon portrayed him as Pinocchio.

    “I had a son in second grade at the time. The final straw was when he came
    home really upset one day because some of his friends had seen someone being
    ugly to me on TV,” he said recently from his new office at the Texas Health
    and Human Services Commission.

    As HHSC deputy commissioner for program services, Phillips will make key
    decisions on downsizing and consolidating 12 agencies serving the blind,
    deaf, nursing home residents, abused children, mentally impaired, physically
    disabled and other needy Texans into only five agencies.

    Phillips also will oversee the privatization of eligibility screening for
    services to sick and needy Texans as part of a new state law designed to
    shrink government and save $1.1 billion. Instead of the 800 Mississippi
    state jobs jeopardized by privatization, Texas aims to eliminate 3,600
    health and human services workers during the next two years.

    “We are fortunate to have Gregg Phillips’ skills and experience as we meet
    the organizational and budget challenges of the next biennium,” Health and
    Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins said, noting his hire’s
    “conscientious approach and broad program knowledge.”

    Despite similarities in the missions of Texas and Mississippi in shrinking
    government while promising to protect the neediest, Phillips, 41, said the
    dynamics are different in key ways.

    “At the time, I was fairly young and fairly immature,” he said of accepting
    Fordice’s key job appointment a decade ago after serving as the governor’s
    campaign finance manager. “I’m a vastly more mature person than I was then.”

    Phillips, who later headed Mississippi’s Republican Party, recalled
    skeptical lawmakers grilling him in Mississippi about his youth and
    inexperience. In retrospect, he said he thinks they had a good point.

    “You know, that was really a poor decision on the governor’s part to put me
    into that,” he said.

    “There’s one huge difference in all of this between my experience in
    Mississippi and here in Texas,” he added of his new boss, Hawkins. “I don’t
    want it to appear as though I’m trying to blow Albert’s horn too much, but
    when I was 31, I was appointed to that job in Mississippi. Both in
    experience, intellect and many other ways, I was no Albert Hawkins.”

    Hawkins, widely regarded as a budget wizard with a depth of government
    knowledge, is well liked and respected by both Republicans and Democrats. He
    previously worked as a key staffer during George W. Bush’s tenures as
    governor and president. Phillips reports to Hawkins, who hired him; Hawkins
    reports directly to Gov. Rick Perry.

    The ambitious social services overhaul in Texas might take up to six years
    to complete, Phillips said, predicting the most complex and challenging
    tasks will be privatizing eligibility screening and splitting mental
    retardation and mental health services into separate agencies.

    He said he no longer believes the argument should be whether privatization
    saves more money than government-run services. The focus should be to create
    competition by preventing either public or private monopolies, perhaps
    splitting tasks among several bidders.

    Republican leaders who pushed through the changes in Texas human services
    predict it will lead to greater efficiencies and better outcomes for the
    needy and taxpayers. But advocates for the poor who remember Phillips’ work
    in Mississippi, predict his leading role could end in chaos, disaster and
    perhaps squandering of tax dollars.

    “He really knows his stuff,” said Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson, author
    of House Bill 2292, the health and human services overhaul, noting Phillips
    played a critical role in drafting the new law.

    She said he possessed a wealth of knowledge needed for such an ambitious
    reinvention of government and if he didn’t have an answer, he quickly got
    one.

    “There are not very many conservatives who are all that involved in health
    and human services issues. I knew he was,” she added. “He had an excellent
    reputation.”

    Larry Temple, who worked for Phillips in Mississippi before landing at the
    Texas Workforce Commission as the director of welfare reform, predicted a
    successful future for his friend in Texas.

    “He’s no-nonsense, very direct, very focused, extremely loyal,” Temple said.
    “He’s a good soldier, the kind of guy you can depend on to carry out any
    mandates you’re given.”

    Temple said Phillips is the “perfect person” to pull off changes in the
    landmark legislation, but several civil rights advocates and others in
    Mississippi disagree.

    “Mr. Phillips has been identified as one of those people that can come in
    and make all those drastic cuts and not feel any compunction about what he’s
    doing to the poor people of Texas,” said Wendell Paris of Mississippi Action
    for Community Education in the poverty-stricken Mississippi Delta. “If he
    does in Texas what he did in Mississippi, I feel sorry for the poor people
    of Texas.”

    Many recall controversial welfare-to-work policies, which reduced welfare
    rolls by more than 80 percent, sometimes by putting welfare recipients to
    work in poultry processing plants or casinos. Their benefit checks went to
    employers to subsidize their low-wage jobs. Phillips described the approach
    as “tough love,” but Paris saw the impact they had in less flattering terms.

    “Those Texas legislators ought to research what his history is, and they
    ought to be ashamed of themselves,” he said, noting the state’s recruitment
    of both Temple and Phillips. “They’re bringing in that whole crew of these
    ruthless wolves hiding in sheep’s clothing.”

    Carol Burnett of Mississippi’s Low Income Child Initiative said Phillips was
    a “very controversial choice” to head Mississippi’s human services
    department because he was so inexperienced with the issues faced by poor
    families.

    “I think his work in government is more political than it is really trying
    to promote any kind of improvement over time for human services for
    low-income families,” she said. “I regret that type of person is the choice
    to head agencies that have such incredible influence over how programs are
    shaped that so influence the lives of children and families.”

    Warren Yoder, director of the Public Policy Center of Mississippi, said
    Phillips’ controversial privatization of child support collections under a
    contract to Maximus Inc. was limited by the Legislature in scope.

    Even so, he said the experiment was a failure, and the Legislature later
    turned both child support collections and welfare-to-work training programs
    back to the state.

    Phillips maintains that under his watch, child support collections doubled
    in two years and a literacy project for welfare clients won an international
    distance learning award. Welfare recipients graduating from the reading
    program told touching stories of how they hitchhiked from the Delta to
    attend the classes, he said.

    Phillips also said he’s learned a lot since his maiden venture into health
    and human services. He blames part of his public relations woes on one of
    his biggest mistakes — immediately firing his entire human services
    communications staff.

    His interest in contracting with private technology companies for government
    services continued after he left Mississippi, as a senior manager at
    Deloitte Consulting and as founder of Enterject, Inc.

    Enterject, his résumé said, developed business ideas for using private
    technology for delivering health and human services.

    He worked for the Republican Party in Alabama and participated in national
    and local GOP campaigns as well. However, he said if anyone harbors concerns
    about his past as a political operative, they should set those fears aside.

    “Yes, there is an open door,” he said, inviting all sides of the social
    services debate to the table. “All of our efforts, whether they be
    Republican, Democrat or otherwise, have to focus on service delivery.”

    HoustonChronicle.com —
    http://www.HoustonChronicle.com
    Section: Local & State

    This article is: http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/metropolitan/1961899