Dallas County Health Director Dodges Questions Amid Criminal Investigation Into Department

Nearly 200 positions remain vacant at Dallas County Health and Human Services Department

Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson refused to answer questions about a criminal investigation into his department one day after NBC 5 Investigates revealed Dallas County Health and Human Services had been put on probation for falsely boosting performance numbers.

NBC 5 Investigates learned state investigators found health department workers were fudging numbers to make it look like the county was doing a better job of tracking down people who may have been exposed to sexually transmitted diseases.

Just two weeks ago the Texas Department of State Health Services sent Director Thompson a letter notifying him that his department is on state probation as a result of the investigation.

But when NBC 5 Investigates confronted Thompson Tuesday morning at a meeting of the Dallas County Commissioners Court he claimed to not know what we were talking about, suggested we were wrong and then refused to answer any other questions.

"I don't know anything about what you're talking about other than I can't speak to it," Thompson said. "Have a good day as you continue to provide misinformation as you normally do."

When asked what was wrong with previous reports, Thompson refused to give a reply.

A state inspector general's report said Dallas County Health Department workers "admitted to entering false data" at the direction of the woman who supervised the unit in order to "increase the agency's performance numbers."

Just two weeks ago the state sent Thompson a letter notifying him that his department is on state probation.

The county's top elected official said Tuesday the allegations are very serious.

Asked if he's satisfied with Director Thompson's handling of the investigation, Jenkins replied, "I'm satisfied with the information I have today, but the investigation is early and it continues."

Meanwhile, Director Thompson refuses to say whether he's taken any disciplinary action against the employees involved.

Was an Understaffed Department Under Pressure to Meet State Targets?

County staffing records obtained by NBC 5 Investigates show 194 vacant positions in the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department.  

Among disease intervention specialists who follow-up on STD and epidemiology investigations, the department has 13 of 26 existing positions vacant.

The vacancies raise the question about whether an understaffed department was under more pressure to meet state targets.

But officials said even that would not justify fudging numbers. 

"To the extent that anyone has knowingly falsified data there's no excuse for that," said County Judge Clay Jenkins.

A spokeswoman for the Dallas County District Attorney's office said the criminal investigation is in the early stages and is not yet ready to go before a grand jury.

A letter the Dallas County district attorney's office sent to NBC 5 Investigates and the state attorney general in May confirms the case is "in the hands of the (D-A's) Public Integrity Unit."

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