You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

State purchasing director on leave — again — amid contract questions


Highlights

Frianita Wilson, suspected of helping her husband obtain a state contract, was placed on leave Thursday.

Wilson had been placed on leave in December 2014 over connections to the 21CT contracting scandal.

Wilson’s husband, the former state health commission inspector general, said that they’ve done nothing wrong.

The purchasing director at Child Protective Services has been placed on leave as officials launch an investigation into a “substantial” pending contract involving a nonprofit where the director’s husband works, the American-Statesman has learned.

It’s the second time Frianita Wilson has been placed on leave amid contract questions. She was a figure in the 21CT contracting scandal, which led to the resignations of her husband, Doug Wilson, former inspector general of the Health and Human Services Commission, and the former agency Chief Counsel Jack Stick, among others.

Frianita Wilson continued to be paid her annual $100,000 salary while on a yearlong administrative leave, starting in December 2014, as officials investigated her role in procuring a contract with Austin data and analytics firm 21CT. She was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.

Doug Wilson told the Statesman on Friday that his wife had done nothing wrong and that she had disclosed to the commission that he works for a nonprofit that deals with residential child care. He said that the nonprofit hasn’t been awarded a contract and that his wife’s job duties don’t include contract procurement.

He said that the commission unfairly targeted his wife and him in the 21CT affair and that commission officials are doing it again. Other agency officials have gone to work for nonprofits receiving contracts from the Department of Family and Protective Services, which oversees CPS, without the same scrutiny he has received, Doug Wilson said.

TEXAS POLITICS DELIVERED EVERY DAY: Sign up for our Texas Politics email

“Once again, my wife and I are being placed underneath a cloud of suspicion. We’re not pleased by it,” Wilson said. “This time, my wife and I are not going to take this sitting down. We’re tired of being picked on.”

A memo addressed to Frianita Wilson that was provided by the department said that she was placed on emergency leave Thursday and she was considered to be on “alternative work assignment” until further notice. She isn’t allowed to access her work computer or contact the employees who report to her unless she’s instructed to do so by her bosses, the memo said.

Department of Family and Protective Services officials declined to comment on the case.

Frianita Wilson was put on leave the first time after signing off on a $452,000 deal with 21CT to help the Department of Family and Protective Services track child abuse investigations. That deal was canceled in the wake of the scandal, which centered on a separate $20 million contract with 21CT to help detect Medicaid fraud. A $90 million contract extension with the company was canceled in December 2014 after a Statesman investigation revealed problems with the deal, including the lack of a traditional bidding process, little oversight and a possible conflict of interest.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Lone Star Politics page brings Capitol news to your Facebook feed

State health Commissioner Charles Smith on Thursday sent a letter informing lawmakers of an investigation into a “substantial procurement” that hadn’t been awarded. The contract process has been halted while the Office of the Inspector General — which was notified March 3 of allegations against Frianita Wilson — investigates the allegation, Smith said. The Dallas Morning News first reported about the letter, which doesn’t name Frianita Wilson. Smith asks in the letter that the Sunset Advisory Commission conduct an independent and thorough review of the contracting processes and procedures of the Health and Human Services Commission.

State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, told Smith during a hearing of the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee on Thursday that he was concerned the problems that once derailed the commission persisted.

Smith told the committee that the commission has made several improvements to how it procures contracts since the 21CT fallout. A deputy commissioner has been assigned to oversee procurement and contracting services. Executive staff must sign off on contracts worth more than $1 million. The commission has also increased training for purchasers and contract managers.

Laws passed in the last legislative session boost oversight of large state contracts awarded to private companies and prohibit state employees involved in bid decisions from working for the winning company for two years.

When asked by state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, if his letter was an indication of his lack of confidence in the commission’s procurement practice, Smith said no.

“What I felt would be best given this current circumstance was to have an independent entity come in and take another look at what we’ve done to ensure that our processes, practices that we have put in place are strong. Not that I am doubting what we’ve done,” Smith said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Community news: Recycling research to be shared May 8

TRAVIS COUNTY EAST AUSTIN Recycling research shared The public is invited to an interactive presentation of the city of Austin’s new recycling tools from 6:30 to 8 p.m. May 8 at the Carver Branch Library at 1161 Angelina St. The presentation is being done by Austin’s Design, Technology and Innovation Fellows, in partnership with Austin...
Education nonprofit pushes entrepreneurship programs to older students
Education nonprofit pushes entrepreneurship programs to older students

Junior Achievement, the 98-year old nonprofit that teaches students about the economy and business, is having a rebirth in Central Texas schools with the goal of preparing more young people for Austin’s entrepreneurial culture. “When we relaunched two years ago, we knew we had to focus on what this community needed the most,” said...
Latest numbers show rising use of Austin-area toll roads
Latest numbers show rising use of Austin-area toll roads

The four toll roads in the Austin area operated by the Texas Department of Transportation, after having sparse traffic when they first opened a decade ago, have seen steadily increasing use. Based on figures from the first six months of the 2016-17 fiscal year, here are five things to know about the growing revenue of the Central Texas Turnpike System...
U.S. 290 shut down at William Cannon for tree in roadway, police say
U.S. 290 shut down at William Cannon for tree in roadway, police say

Both lanes of West U.S. 290 eastbound have been shut down just past West William Cannon Drive until authorities can remove a tree limb from the roadway, according to Austin police. The large tree branch fell down onto the road and authorities have to get the correct equipment to remove the limb from the roadway, police said. Drivers should expect some...
Judge says Houston-area bail system unfair to poor offenders

A judge rebuked Houston-area authorities for imposing a bail system that’s unfair to people arrested for lesser offenses who are detained for long periods because they’re unable to pay for their release. The ruling Friday by Chief U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal was part of a lawsuit from a single mother who was held for two days on a...
More Stories