Texas health official resigns amid contracting errors

by Marissa Evans, The Texas Tribune

Heather Griffith Peterson has resigned from her job as chief operating officer for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Texas Health and Human Services

The state official who oversees information technology and contracting at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission – which has had a series of contracting mishaps — resigned Wednesday, according to the agency.

Heather Griffith Peterson, chief operating officer for the commission, is leaving as the agency continues to get hit by auditors over mismanagement of state contracts. She stepped into the role in June 2016. Wednesday is her last day.

Carrie Williams, a spokesperson for the agency, confirmed Griffith Peterson’s departure in an email. She said Victoria Ford, the commission’s chief policy officer, will serve as interim chief operating officer.

“Our focus is on strengthening our procurement system and continuing the good work of the agency,” Williams said. “Our central priority is always taking care of the health of Texans. Nothing is more important to us right now that continuing to provide services to the people who need them.”

Griffith Peterson’s departure comes two days after the State Auditor’s Office released a report slamming the commission and the Department of State Health Services over mishandling a contract for how Genesis Systems Inc. would work with the state’s birth and death records system. Auditors cited misreporting, inaccurate calculations and a failure to seek proper approval for contract exemptions.

The health commission has also gotten flack from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s office over the contracting issues. Last week, three Texas Health and Human Services Commission employees were fired following a scathing letter from Abbott to Executive Commissioner Charles Smith over contracting failures related to the Children’s Health Insurance Program in rural communities.

Before joining the commission, Griffith Peterson was the director of policy research for the Texas A&M University System and had also served as chief financial officer for the Texas Department of Agriculture. In 2015, she was a member of a team created by Abbott to review management, contracting and operations in the agency.

Disclosure: The Texas A&M University System has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here