in Houston, Texas
Rep. Vicki Truitt bobs, weaves - and avoids the facts - in response to Texas Watchdog story on no-bid contracts
Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012, 06:21PM CST
By Trent Seibert
truitt

Regarding state Rep. Vicki Truitt’s accusations of a “hatchet piece” by Texas Watchdog in a weekend opinion column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, we noticed the representative never gets around to challenging the central point of our article: her six-figure no-bid contracts from a taxpayer-funded hospital district.

That’s because she can’t.

Our article, reproduced with permission in the Star-Telegram, was based on publicly available records, none of which Truitt has dared call into question.

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.

Truitt answers the story’s thesis by saying the arrangement is legal. The hospital district has said much the same. State law relieves hospital districts of competitively bidding deals for "professional services" such as accounting or surveying, but it’s not clear whether the section would cover the type of personnel services Truitt's firm has provided.

As she said in her interview with Watchdog, Truitt writes that her work at the hospital district predates her service in the Legislature, to which she was first elected in 1998. Whether the arrangement began prior to her taking office doesn’t change a thing. The no-bid contracts were in place while she was in office.

Then, Truitt tries to kill the messenger, falsely suggesting Watchdog and conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan have formed some evil cabal to ruin her politically. (Sullivan has been been putting heat on politicians like Truitt for not being conservative enough for his group. More recently, Truitt and another legislator have accused Sullivan of ethics violations.)

We don’t presume to speak for Sullivan, but frankly, Watchdog enjoys having Truitt in the Legislature. Between her no-bid contracts and her using campaign funds to pay rent for an Austin property her husband owned through a loophole in the state ethics laws, Rep. Truitt is good copy.

Read Texas Watchdog. We don’t play favorites.

Truitt also dismisses reporter Steve Miller as “a Houston blogger,” insinuating that if a piece of writing is by a blogger, it must be in question. We could not disagree more with that assumption.

But on Miller’s status as a working journalist: The Society of American Business Editors and Writers, which just awarded him a top investigative reporting honor for his work on the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, would certainly call Miller a journalist. So would the Fort Worth Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, which has also honored Miller.

And we’d wager the overwhelming majority of the readers who follow his work would disagree with Truitt’s characterization.

It also must have escaped Truitt’s notice that from 1996 to 2000 Miller covered doings in her very own Metroplex, including writing about her first run for office, when he was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News.

In her attack, Truitt wants to assure the public that her “actions and motives are pure.” In other words, “I’m a politician, trust me.”

We leave it to readers to decide if you think that’s a good idea or not.

***
Contact Trent Seibert at trent@texaswatchdog.org or 832-316-4994 or on Twitter at @trentseibert  or@texaswatchdog.

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Photo of Texas state capitol by Flickr user Rhettwp, used via the Creative Commons license.

Comments
Aaron Harris
Wednesday, 05/02/2012 - 08:53PM

Excellent piece. I also noticed her response in the FWST did not address any of the assertions or issue, it simply attacked the various messengers. Vicki hates nothing more than to be pointed out for her true record. Unfortunately she has too many people still believing she's a republican when in fact her voting record suggests otherwise.

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