Senator seeks DA’s help in fight over cancer records

By Laylan Copelin
American-Statesman Staff
Originally published Friday, Feb. 8, 2013

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, has asked Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to intervene in Davis’ attempt to obtain records from a foundation supporting the state’s troubled cancer agency.

Davis filed a civil complaint Friday, asking Lehmberg to determine that the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas Foundation is a government body subject to the state’s Public Information Act.

Davis wrote that the foundation has refused to release records, claiming it is not a government body.

Foundation officials responded that they have been cooperating with Davis.

“We have already provided Sen. Davis with an extensive amount of information relating to the operations of the foundation,” said Marc Palazzo, a foundation spokesman. “We also have requested a meeting with her to answer any additional questions she may have. Unfortunately she hasn’t accepted our offer.”

Lehmberg confirmed that she has received Davis’ complaint.

“This office will need to review the complaint and the legal issues involved prior to responding or taking action,” she said.

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas — commonly known as CPRIT — is under criminal investigation and legislative review because of its lax management of at least three of its largest grants, totaling $56 million. Other management practices have been criticized as well.

The foundation was created to raise money to supplement the salaries of executives at the state agency.

For weeks it refused to release its list of donors, but eventually it did so under pressure from the Legislature.

Davis is seeking other documents that she says are needed in time for the Legislature to act. The legislative session ends in May.

In her letter to the district attorney, Davis argued that the Legislature authorized the creation of the foundation, that half of the foundation’s board of directors are members of the agency’s oversight committee and that it is required to report its contributions and expenditures to the Legislative Budget Board.

In a letter to Davis, foundation officials noted that the organization does not receive or spend public money and is solely supported by private grants and donations.