Since we are getting close to election day, I thought I’d repost the original Texas Watchdog Story:
A firm owned by state Rep. Vicki Truitt has received $350,000 since 2004 through no-bid deals and contracts with the Tarrant County Hospital District, including contracts that were signed by donors to her political fund.
Truitt is president of Physician Resource Network, a consultancy and personnel recruiting business based outside Fort Worth. Her husband, Jim, is vice-president.
Documents obtained by Texas Watchdog show Truitt’s company signed two 12-month contracts with the hospital district in 2009 and 2010 for more than $160,000 each. Its task was to determine the physician staffing needs in the district and to improve recruitment for the district’s family medicine residency program. The work was conducted for JPS Health Network, a business name used by the hospital district.
The lawyer of record on both contracts was Neal Adams, who has donated $7,800 to the Truitt campaign since 2001.
The Truitts’ company submitted an agreement worth $40,000 in June, which was signed by Gary Floyd, executive vice president at JPS. Floyd has donated $1,700 and nine times to Truitt since she took office in 1999.
Floyd has also donated numerous times to the Texas Medical Association PAC, which has given Truitt $9,000 since 2003. Floyd was a member of the board of managers at the hospital district before taking his executive position in 2009.
In June 2004, Jim Truitt sent a $20,000 invoice to Jay Haynes, senior vice president and chief medical officer at JPS for the placement of a physician. Haynes at the time had given Truitt two $100 donations in August 2003 and he would give her $100 that September and again in September 2007.
Truitt said that she has had a contract with the Tarrant County Hospital District for years before her election to public office.
“Let me tell you something, we’ve had a small business that I started in 1984,” Truitt said. “My service to the hospital district has nothing to do with my humbling public office. I’ve had a long-standing relationship with the Tarrant County Hospital District that far predates the current contract and certainly predates my service in the Texas Legislature.
“I am entitled to make a living. Our contract goes back much farther than that.”
Records obtained from the hospital district show that the Truitts did not receive any money until the 2004 payment for $20,000.
Floyd did not return calls.
Truitt, 58, has been a member of the public health committee since 2003 and chairs the Pensions, Investments & Financial Services committee.
Records show that she has both abstained and participated in measures that had the potential to benefit her own work.
Truitt abstained from voting on SB303 last session, a bill last session that made it easier for the district to detect fraud in its programs and included a provision specific to the way Tarrant County Hospital District hires physicians.
But in 2007, Truitt was the sponsor of HB 3065, which asked for a study that could increase the number of medical residency programs in the state. Another element of the bill would make available more physicians for underserved areas – which would broaden business for the Truitts, who state in their promotional materials that they have “brokered some 25 medical practices. … Several of these practices were local in rural communities.” They also boasted that “a significant number of our assignments over the years have focused on the recruitment of family physicians in rural communities.”
The bill failed.
“That is a bill that was absolutely good for the state,” Truitt said. “If you are familiar with the need for physicians in the state you know that we are far undersupplied.”
The same session, she also introduced HB1056, which proposed to have the state collect more data on health care professionals. As recruiters, the Truitts would have benefited from an easier way of accessing information of potential recruits. The bill would have cost an estimated $382,372 if it had been adopted. It got to a House vote – Truitt voted ‘yes’ – but it later died.
Truitt said she has never introduced legislation that would benefit her business.
Truitt faces an opponent in the Republican primary, a Tea Party-backed candidate named Giovanni Capriglione.
“These contracts should have been disclosed to voters before,” Capriglione said.
In the promotional materials included as an exhibit in their contracts, the couple claims Physician Resource Network “was established in 1984.” State records show it was first registered as a Texas business in 1992.
When she first ran for the Legislature in 1998, Truitt listed her occupation as a physician recruiter and her husband as a health care consultant. She said her husband had a business, Advanced Medical Strategies, and said he had an interest in a company called Management Support Inc. in Fort Worth, which is an injury management outfit.
In the promotional materials that are part of the contract with the hospital district, Vicki Truitt says she was “previously certified by the American College of Medical Staff Development.”
The college exists no longer. Records show the organization once existed, giving presentations around the U.S. and run by Roger Bonds, who is currently head of the Fulton County Republican Party in Georgia.
He is now the owner of an online physician group called the American Academy of Medical Management, which offers online training in medical administration. Bonds said he ran the college for a while but he has had the academy for “over a decade.”
“It’s a membership association,” Bonds said. “It’s a very serious program and we have six or eight different credentials available.”
He said a fee is required to be a member, which is necessary in order to be certified.
The requirement for bidding on consulting contracts by the district is murky. The state Attorney General’s office cited two dictates that determine the need for a bidding process that would apply.
A section in the Texas Heath and Safety Code governs the authority to contract. The section also directs the board to seek out minority or female-owned businesses. Physicians Resource Network, although owned by Vicki Truitt, is not registered with the state as a woman-owned business.
A more explicit rule regarding bidding is a section in the Texas Government Code. It states that competitive bidding is not required on deals for “professional services” such as accounting or surveying.
It’s not clear whether the section would relieve the hospital district from contracting for the type of personnel services Truitt’s firm has provided.
“Everything that we are legally required to put out for bid, we do,” said Diana Carroll, a public information person at JPS. “This consulting services is not the kind of thing we are required to send out for bid.”