AUSTIN - Three Travis County property owners filed a lawsuit against Central Health Wednesday alleging the taxing district is misusing its funds.
Esther Govea is one of those residents.
Govea wants to be spending her days volunteering or out in the community, but she was just released from the hospital and is at home. On top of that, she's down on her luck. The mother of five is unable to work right now because of health issues, she doesn't have a car and struggles to make ends meet and afford her medications.
"I pray to God to let, you know, to help. Somebody hear me out," she said sobbing.
"Nobody should be going through this, you know," she added.
There is medical help for the poor in Travis County through Central Health. The district collects property taxes and helps fund 200 non-profit health organizations, clinics and hospitals that help low-income and uninsured residents.
In 2012, voters approved raising the tax rate so the district could help build the Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas with the agreement that it would further its mission of helping the poor.
"It is a sad day when Travis County, as wealthy as we are, with institutions with as much wealth, hi-jack money that was intended for the poor for their economic development schemes," said attorney Fred Lewis.
Lewis is serving as an assistant attorney in the lawsuit against Central Health. The plaintiffs are asking a judge to declare the role of the district and what it can and can't use the taxpayer dollars it collects for.
"Central Health has funded fundraising, public relations, accounting, business operations and student admissions staff for the medical school," Lewis said.
Mike Geeslin, who became the President and CEO of Central Health in May, said he couldn't comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, but pointed out the district's budget is approved by its board of directors and the Travis County Commissioner's Court.
"We are not deterred," said Geeslin about the lawsuit. "In fact, we welcome this opportunity to go to court to discuss these issues."
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt released the following statement on the lawsuit:
Our community is united in its support for Central Health’s mission - providing access to quality healthcare for low-income Travis County residents. Our community remains divided on the legal question of funding a medical school with property tax dollars as a means of supporting that mission. I have said for some time that the legal questions need to be settled, with some finality, and that the best and only forum for doing that is in a court of law. In this respect, I welcome this suit and pray for a speedy resolution.
The primary responsibility of the Travis County Commissioners Court regarding Central Health is as a fiscal watchdog – we look for and demand honesty and accountability with regard to how much money is available to be spent, how much is spent, and on what. We have strengthened our fiscal oversight in recent years in response to community calls for greater clarity. Central Health has been increasingly responsive. Regardless of the outcome of this lawsuit over what investments Central Health can make, the Commissioners Court will continue its search and demand for honesty and accountability when Central Health makes investments.
Read the full lawsuit below:
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