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Lewis remains in the running for Central Health board of directors seat

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

After interviewing four candidates for an open seat on the Central Health board of directors on Tuesday, the Travis County Commissioners Court voted to make one of the hospital district’s most outspoken critics its runner-up choice. The court spent the afternoon interviewing four candidates for the position. Last but not least in the batting order was attorney Fred Lewis, who has spent the fall publicly advocating for more transparency and accountability at Central Health. During his interview, Lewis said that, if appointed, he would fight for better community engagement and rebuild trust in its mission to provide health care for the poor. He noted several times that his open records requests with the district have turned up very little in response. He also complained about a lack of specific metrics of success regarding Central Health’s annual $35 million allocation to the University of Texas’ Dell Medical School. After the interviews, Commissioner Margaret Gomez moved to recommend Lewis for the appointment, which drew a second from Commissioner Brigid Shea. However, Commissioner Gerald Daugherty predicted that putting Lewis on the Central Health board could sour relations between the district and the court. County Judge Sarah Eckhardt acknowledged “the desperate hunger in the community for metrics” that Lewis referred to, but she concluded that LBJ School of Public Affairs Professor Abigail Aiken was the best candidate for the job. Eckhardt offered a substitute motion to that end, which Daugherty seconded. After further parliamentary dancing, the court voted 3-1-1 to designate Aiken as the court’s primary preference with Lewis as the runner-up. Daugherty voted against the recommendation, and Commissioner Ron Davis abstained. Because the open seat — being vacated by incumbent Kirk Kuykendall — is the long joint appointment on the board that the county shares with the city of Austin, the split recommendation will be considered by City Council’s Health and Human Services Committee on Dec. 5, and ultimately by the full Council on Dec. 15.

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