In the latest in a string of high-profile resignations at the Health and Human Services Commission, Casey Haney — who received $97,000 in college tuition against agency policy — quit Friday.
Haney, who was deputy chief of staff for Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek, came under fire last week after the Texas Tribune reported that the commission had paid Haney’s tuition at the University of Texas for a Master of Business Administration program in one lump sum, a violation of state policy. The agency allows employees to request tuition reimbursement after they complete courses, but Haney’s tuition was paid upfront, which is not permitted.
Haney’s resignation comes a day after Erica Stick, Janek’s chief of staff, said she was leaving the agency. Stick’s husband, Jack Stick, the former chief counsel at the agency, is at the center of criminal investigations for his role in brokering a multimillion-dollar, no-bid contract with Austin tech firm 21CT. He resigned a month ago after the American-Statesman revealed he skirted state procurement laws to steer a $20 million Medicaid anti-fraud contract to 21CT and a pending $90 million contract extension that was canceled the same day he resigned.
According to a Friday email by commission spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman: “Casey Haney today notified Dr. Janek of his resignation, effective Feb. 6. He also agreed to repay the tuition that the agency paid to UT on his behalf. He is repaying $12,128 now (the cost of one semester). HHSC is asking UT for (a) refund on the unused portion of the tuition. Once we know if we can get a refund, we will work out a repayment plan with Casey for the remainder.”
The original tuition arrangement was approved by Janek. But the agency is blaming Haney for the violation.
“Dr. Janek signed off (on) the tuition, but he didn’t know it was being paid up front in violation of agency policy,” Goodman said. “He assumed Casey was following the established agency policy on tuition reimbursement.”
Janek said he discovered the violation in August. Haney was not punished at that time.
In his resignation letter to Janek, Haney wrote that he was resigning because “it is clear that my continued employment is a distraction from the work of you and the 54,000 employees of the HHS System.”
Haney, 37, has a long history with the some of the chief players in the unfolding contracting scandal.
In 2003, Haney was a legislative aide to Jack Stick during his one term as a Republican state representative from Austin. In 2005, Haney returned to the Capitol as a legislative aide to Janek, then a Republican state senator from Houston. By 2007, he was Janek’s chief of staff.
Haney served in 2011 as Gov. Rick Perry’s adviser on pensions, benefits and financial agencies, at a salary of $87,500. He then moved to the state Railroad Commission as then-Chairman Barry Smitherman’s chief of staff.
Haney was hired by the Health and Human Services Commission in 2013 at a salary of roughly $162,000 in a job that was never posted publicly, as required by state agency rules and state law, according to a Statesman investigation last month. At the time, that made him one of more than a dozen former Perry staffers who applied for and got jobs working at state agencies in positions that were never posted publicly.
Haney is the fourth health agency official to resign. In addition to Jack and Erica Stick, former Inspector General Doug Wilson stepped down at the request of Perry, who had appointed him. Haney has not been publicly connected to the 21CT contract.
But the controversy has sparked broader questions about Janek’s ability to run the 50,000-plus employee agency. On Thursday, two Democratic legislators — state Sen. John Whitmire and state Rep. Garnet Coleman — called for Janek’s resignation.