By POLLY ROSS HUGHES
Copyright 1999 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
AUSTIN -- A former street person with a sketchy
background and no résumé is conducting
highly intimate interviews with violent juveniles for the Texas Department of Health.
In hiring the once homeless Andre Eleazer, the Health Department waived its rule
requiring jobs to be advertised and applications accepted.
Eleazer wasn't required to fill out a job application
or provide a résumé for
the $38,000-a-year position. Records show he did have to apply for a
Social Security card, which he needed to start work on May 11.
Eleazer may not have had a Social Security card,
but he did have a special connection,
public records indicate. Before coming to Texas, he shared a home outside Washington, D.C.,
with a high-ranking special adviser to Texas Health Commissioner Dr. William "Reyn" Archer III.
Eleazer was hired to interview violent juveniles jailed at the Giddings State School near Austin.
Transcripts of the audiotaped interviews were
obtained by the Houston Chronicle over a
six-month period under the Texas Public Information Act. It took a ruling by the office of
Texas Attorney General John Cornyn to get the Health Department to release the transcripts.
Each interview consumes about 20 pages, typed
and single spaced. In them, the unidentified
youths speak graphically of their sex lives, their families, the violence they've committed
and the abuse they've endured.
The transcribed interviews are primarily monologues
by juveniles revealing personal
information with relatively few questions asked by the interviewer to elicit such
Eleazer's journey from the streets of Washington,
D.C., to the employment rolls
of the Texas Health Department was made possible by Gerald L. Campbell,
a $90,500-a-year special adviser to Archer.
Campbell, who served in President Bush's administration
as special adviser to the
director of the U.S. Information Agency, met Eleazer while conducting a personal
photojournalism project on homelessness in the nation's capital, Health Department
spokesman Doug McBride confirmed.
Eleazer lists Campbell in his personnel files as the person to contact in an emergency.
Campbell believes that social ills and many diseases
result from a "lack of love and alienation."
His theory has been roundly endorsed by Archer, who has endured both ridicule and praise
for his unorthodox and spiritual approach to public health policy.
Campbell's résumé shows he has an
undergraduate history degree and a masters degree
in philosophy. He detailed his views on the community dynamics of love and alienation in
a 1999 speech he gave at St. David's Episcopal Church in Austin.
(The speech can be found at www.io.com/~st_david/words003.html).
In the speech, Campbell asserts that spiritual emptiness in the United States
is a threat to national security.
(Editor's Note: If they're doing this under the mantle
of "national security,"
there's nothing they won't do to accomplish their goal.)
Campbell's theory has been the basis for a state-sanctioned
study into the
"root causes of youth violence" that Campbell, Eleazer and Dan Mathews,
deputy commissioner for community health and prevention, have been
conducting since last spring.
As part of the study, Campbell and Mathews also have interviewed the juvenile offenders.
The Houston Chronicle has repeatedly asked Campbell,
Eleazer and Mathews, who also
is from Washington, D.C., to explain their state-funded work, but they have refused.
They intend to present their findings to the Texas Legislature next spring, records show.
McBride said the three men "were hired because
of their specific experiences,
skills or knowledge. This is a significant and somewhat unique project and
we needed the right people to carry it out."
Public records obtained by the Chronicle do not
show that Eleazer has previous experience
or academic credentials that would uniquely qualify him to conduct such a sociological study.
Like Eleazer, Campbell and Mathews were appointed
to their jobs and did not have to
compete with other applicants. Both were given hefty raises shortly after starting.
Campbell's starting pay of $65,000 in December
1997 jumped to more than $89,000
just nine months later and to $90,500 the next year. Mathews is paid $77,200, records show.
Campbell's job description, meanwhile, demonstrates
his broad influence and penchant for
holding information close to the vest. He has "full responsibility to act on behalf of the commissioner."
The job description also states Campbell is to
communicate with the department only by
speaking in staff meetings, personal conversations or other "secure communication."
In his speech at the Austin church, Campbell said
the idea to explore the dynamics of love
and alienation originated in Washington.
He said his "interest in exploring the spiritual
dynamics of community grew directly out
of insights" developed during his terms with the Reagan and Bush administrations.
"In short, there exists a distinct possibility
that the moral energy that currently unites freedom
loving people around the world will be slowly, but significantly, effaced by an ever-growing
stream of fragmentation, hostility, conflict and violence," he has written.
"Faced with this challenge, the only strategic
option for America is to initiate a process
that will heal spiritual alienation in all aspects of national life ...
In short, the need to heal spiritual alienation ranges far beyond America's domestic crisis;
it goes to the heart of America's national security."