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Whistleblowers, State Contracts, and Emancipation Park: Thursday’s Show (June 16, 2016)

Back in April, the Houston Independent School District suspended chief executive auditor Richard Patton. According to the Houston Chronicle, in a complaint he filed with HISD just a couple of weeks ago, Patton says the school board suspended him for being a whistleblower, questioning potential illegal activity. The complaint opens up the possibility for Patton to […]

Back in April, the Houston Independent School District suspended chief executive auditor Richard Patton. According to the Houston Chronicle, in a complaint he filed with HISD just a couple of weeks ago, Patton says the school board suspended him for being a whistleblower, questioning potential illegal activity. The complaint opens up the possibility for Patton to go to court with a whistleblower lawsuit against HISD.

On this edition of Houston Matters,  we learn about federal and state whistleblower laws from David Kwok, assistant professor of law at the University of Houston Law Center.

Also this hour:

Why Texas Keeps Contracting With Company That Underdelivers

The state of Texas has a long — and not terribly successful — history with one contracting company: Accenture (formerly known as Andersen Consulting). Some 25 years ago, the Texas Attorney General’s office signed a contract with Andersen to computerize the state’s child support payment system. It wound up costing more than six times what the original contract stipulated, and, according to a state audit, the company was at least partially culpable. In the years since, the company, which changed its name to Accenture, won contracts with the state to manage CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program) and help enroll Texans in SNAP (the food stamp program) and Medicaid. Again, there were cost overruns and little progress leading to a parting of ways and a $100 million settlement payment by Accenture to the state. But in the same year, 2007, then Attorney General Greg Abbott launched a $202 million project to again overhaul the child support system in Texas, and the state contracted with…yep…Accenture. Federal funding covered two thirds of the project, but, as it stalled and ballooned in cost, the feds froze payment. Now, at $420 million, state officials say the project is back on track and will launch in December of 2018, or Accenture will pay $341,000 for every week it’s late.

Why does Texas continue to contract with Accenture, and why do these projects experience delays and cost overruns? We ask Aman Batheja, a political reporter with The Texas Tribune.

Will Texas Have Enough Doctors Who Can Perform Abortions?

The last two days, News 88.7’s Carrie Feibel has reported on how the state’s political climate and resulting shuttering of clinics has created an environment where it’s harder than ever to teach new doctors how to perform abortions. We talk with Carrie about the story and then present the report in its entirety.

Emancipation Park Renovation Update

This Sunday (June 19, 2016) marks Juneteenth. It’s the day when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston to announce the end of slavery in the United States. Starting in 1872, Juneteenth celebrations were held at Emancipation Park in Houston’s Third Ward. But this summer’s commemoration won’t, as Emancipation Park’s $33 million renovation has been delayed by recent storms. The park is still slated to re-open by the end of the summer. Maggie Martin learns more from Dorris Ellis, publisher and editor of the Houston Sun and president of the Friends of Emancipation Park.

Houston Matters offers a free daily, downloadable podcast here, on iTunes, Stitcher and various other podcasting apps.

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