Travis County DA asked to investigate anti-abortion group


Highlights

The Heidi Group was awarded $7 million in contracts from the state to provide women’s health services.

The complaint alleges the group has possibly misused tax dollars by failing to provide certain services.

The group’s CEO maintains she did nothing criminal.

A government watchdog group has asked the Travis County district attorney’s office to investigate whether a Round Rock-based anti-abortion group, which was awarded $6.6 million in state contracts, misused taxpayer money.

In the complaint filed Tuesday, Campaign for Accountability, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit examining “misconduct and malfeasance in the anti-choice movement” accuses the Heidi Group of possibly stealing money that was supposed to be spent on health care and family planning services for low-income Texas women.

“What we want to know is what you did with the money,” said Katie O’Connor, legal counsel with the nonprofit. “It just seems like this is not an organization that was prepared to take on the money the state entrusted it with.”

Carol Everett, CEO of the Heidi Group and an outspoken critic of abortions at the Texas Capitol, said some of the money was spent on administrative functions but that most of it went to subcontractors to provide services required by the state contracts, adding that her books are open to investigators. She said she has been unfairly targeted for the state’s anti-abortion stance.

“I think it’s a continuation of the attack because I’m pro-life. If they’re really pro-choice, why isn’t life a choice? Why not evaluate every provider?” Everett said.

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

The state awarded the Heidi Group a $5 million contract in January to provide family planning services. A few months prior, the group received a $1.6 million contract to hire subcontractors to provide screenings, well woman exams and contraception, among other services, to low-income women in the state-run Healthy Texas Women program.

The contracts raised the eyebrows of abortion rights supporters who had decried the state for excluding Planned Parenthood from the state women’s health program. At one point, Planned Parenthood was the biggest provider in the program but was kicked out in 2011 because its clinics provide abortions.

“I think the state is finding that Planned Parenthood cannot easily be replaced. Specialized family planning cannot easily be replaced,” O’Connor said.

Among the accusations by Campaign for Accountability:

• At least six of the Heidi Group’s 20 subcontractors aren’t eligible to receive Healthy Texas Women funds.

• The group hasn’t set up a toll-free number to connect prospective clients to the closest clinic nor has it published a list of its subcontractors online, as required by the contract.

• The group’s subcontractors for family planning have acquired waivers from providing a pharmacy on site, which the complaint says doesn’t improve women’s access to health and family planning services.

State officials announced last month they slashed the Heidi Group’s family planning contract to less than $1 million because the group didn’t meet contract goals. The group experienced growing pains in its first year, Everett said.

Everett disputes the accusations:

• Three of the four subcontractors the complaint names are no longer subcontractors for various reasons, including Wise Choices Pregnancy Center in Decatur because it wouldn’t provide contraceptives. She said the complaint is incorrect in stating that another subcontractor, Life Choices Medical Clinic, doesn’t provide women’s health services. Everett said she has 25 providers and is working to add 25 more.

• A toll-free number — 1-877-WOMAN-11 — has been available as early as July, according to the Heidi Group’s Facebook page. It’s not clear whether the group’s website has a list of all subcontractors but it provides a list of pregnancy resource centers.

• The group’s subcontractors have pharmacies within five miles of them, Everett said.

Campaign for Accountability also on Tuesday filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether the Heidi Group’s tax-exempt status should be revoked because of Everett’s lobbying and electioneering efforts. Everett said she’s been prudent in clarifying that she represents herself and not the Heidi Group when she’s participating in such activities.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Cedar Park holding public meetings about stormwater drainage proposal
Cedar Park holding public meetings about stormwater drainage proposal

Cedar Park is holding town hall meetings about a proposal to create a stormwater drainage and street repairs program. The proposal would reallocate one-fourth of the revenue from the Economic Development Sales tax to the program, a press release from the city said. If the money was reallocated, the program would receive about $1.57 million annually...
Austin police officer fired 4 months after federal indictment
Austin police officer fired 4 months after federal indictment

An Austin police officer was fired today, four months after a federal grand jury indicted him on a charge of making a false statement to a U.S. agency in the midst of his wife’s Social Security fraud case. Officer Roosevelt Granderson II was fired, not because of the charges, but because he did not attend two separate Internal Affairs...
Police: Georgetown woman lied about income to get free healthcare
Police: Georgetown woman lied about income to get free healthcare

A Georgetown woman was accused of falsely claiming she had no income when she applied for health benefits, an arrest affidavit said. Zona Nelson, 65, was charged with theft by deception, a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Officials with the Williamson County and Cities Health District told the sheriff’s office they...
Defendant called 911 after injuring boyfriend, jury hears
Defendant called 911 after injuring boyfriend, jury hears

Attorneys representing both sides in a Travis County murder trial agree Stephen Sylvester died in July 2015 at the hands of his boyfriend after they fought, following a night of drinking in downtown Austin, in the apartment they shared. But prosecutors are calling Sylvester’s boyfriend, Bryan Canchola, a jealous murderer who flipped out...
Travis DA clears officers in 3 shootings, without grand jury review
Travis DA clears officers in 3 shootings, without grand jury review

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said Tuesday that she will not pursue possible charges against officers in three police shootings as part of an overhaul in how she handles such cases. Her decision to use “prosecutorial discretion” and end such investigations marks the first time in years that an Austin police officer&rsquo...
More Stories