After a controversial decision by North Texas judges to remove all Child Protective Services (CPS) cases from a conservative colleague’s court, an investigation by Texas Scorecard reveals two common threads: CPS and taxpayer funds. The first place we found these threads tie together with the controversial decision is a member of a statewide nonprofit involved in CPS cases: Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).
On February 20, Tarrant County’s Board of District Judges met behind closed doors and voted to remove all cases involving CPS from the 323rd District Court of Judge Alex Kim.
Only two judges voted with Kim against the move, five did not attend the meeting, and the rest voted against Kim and the voters who had hired him.
Sources claimed Local Administrative Judge David L. Evans—under the influence of CPS, Cook Children’s Medical Center, and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Tarrant County—was targeting Kim for being unbiased and making CPS follow the law. Allegedly, Kim’s last-minute injunction saving a baby’s life was the last straw.
On pages 30 and 58 of the meeting’s transcript, Evans said this move was “in the best interest of the system” and the “stakeholders.” He added this would be “cost-efficient and promote consistency.”
On pages 31 and 33, Evans identified ACH (ACH Child and Family Services, a nonprofit organization involved in CPS cases) and OCOK (Our Community, Our Kids, a nonprofit organization involved in foster care) as among the “stakeholders.” In other pages, he mentioned CASA (another nonprofit involved in CPS cases) and CPS.
Texas Scorecard launched an investigation into the nonprofits listed above and, thanks to the assistance of Family Rights Advocacy, found they all have connections with CPS.
All of these nonprofits are funded by Texas taxpayers through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)—CPS’ parent government body.
Texas Scorecard previously reported on CASA of Tarrant County CEO Don Binnicker’s dodging questions regarding allegations that he and his organization influenced the removal of CPS cases from Kim’s court.
CASA of Tarrant County—whose mission is to “advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children” through their court-appointed volunteers—is one of 72 local organizations under the umbrella of Texas CASA Inc.
According to DFPS, Texas CASA has active contracts with the State of Texas worth over $2.1 million.
Binnicker confirmed to us a portion of this taxpayer money is dispersed to his local organization.
In an internal email Texas Scorecard obtained, Binnicker bemoaned the change in relationship since Kim’s election. In an interview with WFAA, Binnicker attacked Kim for assigning fewer CASA volunteers to CPS cases since Kim’s election. Kim argued he had concerns of privacy and the court’s job was to protect “constitutional rights.”
Sources alleged CASA of Tarrant County was angry because fewer volunteer appointments affects their funding. When asked, Binnicker repeatedly denied this until finally admitting that fewer volunteer appointments do have an effect.
In a previous email, he wrote, “CASA has numerous sources of funding. Some go up, some go down. Overall, we did not receive less funding in 2019.”
Sources also alleged many CASA of Tarrant staff are former CPS employees, including Binnicker himself, and the organization has too close a relationship with the state government organization. Binnicker didn’t respond to our request for comment on these allegations, nor did he respond when we asked if he was a former CPS employee.
On January 20 of this year, Texas CASA published a YouTube video that confirmed Binnicker worked for CPS before becoming CASA of Tarrant County’s CEO in 2016.
Texas Scorecard obtained screenshots of Binnicker with Kim’s 2018 Democrat opponent—former Judge James Teel—and screenshots of Teel campaigning at a CASA event in August of 2018. Teel served as an associate judge under Kim’s predecessor.
Sources claim CASA invited Teel to speak to them during the 2018 election, but did not extend the same invitation to then-candidate Kim. Sources allege Binnicker terminated some CASA volunteers because of their public support for Kim in the 2018 campaign.
In an internal email, Binnicker bemoaned the change in their relationship with the 323rd District Court since Kim’s election.
State Rep. Jeff Leach (R–Allen), chair of the Texas House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence, requested a transcript of the Tarrant County Board of District Judges meeting, saying, “We’ll get to the bottom of this.”
Concerned voters may contact Leach as well as Gov. Abbott and state lawmakers.
This article has been updated since publication.
This is the first article in a planned three-part series investigating the major players involved in overturning the voters’ choice of Judge Alex Kim. If you have any information on this case, please contact us at email@example.com