AUSTIN, Texas (CN) - A state investigator was fired after exposing shoddy and nonexistent investigations of Texas children who died under the supervision of Child Protective Services, he claims in court.
Jose "Joe" Antonio Carrizal Jr. sued the Texas Health and Human Services Commission on Monday in Travis County Court, alleging violations of the Texas Whistleblower Act. The commission (HHSC) is the only defendant.
According to the 25-page lawsuit, Carrizal began working HHSC in May 2010 as a special investigator IV. He was promoted twice that year, to Investigator VI for the Office of Inspector General Internal Affairs division.
In or around June 2011 he was appointed to a specialized investigative task force charged with investigating how HHSC's Child Protective Services division conducted investigations of abused and neglected children who died while under CPS supervision.
Carrizal says he disagreed with the method of "cursory 'checklist' investigations."
He claims he was instructed not to interview potential CPS suspects, independent witnesses, law enforcement detectives, or the deceased children's families. He says he was told to get evidence directly from CPS, though CPS is a sub-agency of HHSC, and not to use case numbers that could help track the investigations.
Carrizal says he suggested how Internal Affairs could improve the investigations to ensure the safety of children that were "left in the custody and care of harmful households," and requested independent child safety specialists for child death cases, but HHSC ignored his suggestions every time.
When he learned that HHSC had failed to act on findings from a previous CPS investigation conducted by Internal Affairs, he suspected a cover-up.
"It was clear that HHSC failed to act on the previous CPS investigation conducted by IA because CPS was a subagency of HHSC," the complaint states. "For HHSC to take action against CPS would implicate its own incompetence. It also became apparent to plaintiff that HHSC was once again attempting to cover up the wrongdoing of CPS by requiring its investigators to conduct haphazard investigations into the deaths of children in order to conceal the incompetence and indifference of the agency in handling former investigations into the deaths of Texas children. Plaintiff was exposing a known political 'hot potato' that endangered the lives of countless Texas children and threatened the careers of numerous political appointees."
Carrizal says he became aware of 160 child death cases assigned to the Internal Affairs task force in which caseworkers were at fault.
Most disturbing, he says, HHSC management told him that the task force was investigating child death cases only in Houston and Dallas. He says that left children elsewhere exposed to abuse.
When Carrizal sought criminal charges against HHSC/CPS employees in one high profile investigation, he says HHSC Deputy Inspector General Adrian Glen Abrams yelled at him during a phone call and asked why he was filing criminal charges on CPS employees.
Shortly after the phone call, Carrizal says, he received another call from an HHSC manager, who gave him a direct order to send the investigative report via unsecure email instead of delivering the report in person. In this case, Carrizal says, his findings led to criminal charges, indictments and arrests.