Three local proponents of the Prometa drug-treatment program who secured about $900,000 in state and county funding owned stock in the Los Angeles company that licenses the treatment.
The three are Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, who asked the County Council to spend $400,000 on the program; Terree Schmidt-Whelan, the executive director of the Pierce County Alliance, which administers the treatment program; and state Rep. Dennis Flannigan, D-Tacoma, her predecessor as head of the group.
The council voted Tuesday to end funding for the program.
Pierce County Councilman Shawn Bunney has said he’s bothered by Schmidt-Whelan’s arrangement and might seek answers at a council committee meeting today.
The alliance contracted with Hythiam, the Los Angeles company, to provide Prometa, a three-drug treatment for users of cocaine or methamphetamine, through Pierce County Drug Court.
Ladenburg said he bought 100 shares in the company about a year ago for $9 a share and recently sold them for about $8.50 a share. He said his ownership of the stock did not influence his actions.
Schmidt-Whelan told The News Tribune she obtained stock in Hythiam, but couldn’t remember when or how many shares.
Flannigan said he owns 4,000 shares in Hythiam, which he bought for $7 apiece in summer 2006. The stock closed at $8.60 per share Tuesday on Nasdaq.
“I got enthused,” Flannigan said, after hearing Schmidt- Whelan talk about how well Drug Court defendants did in a three-month Prometa pilot project in 2006. He said he was “raising the hosanna” with his colleagues in the statehouse about Prometa.
Flannigan said he checked with an attorney for the state before buying the stock. He said he was told the purchase was OK as long as he didn’t vote in the statehouse to directly benefit Hythiam.
Flannigan said he met the criteria by not voting directly on Prometa funding measures but only on the overall state budget. That spending plan included $395,000 for the treatment program.
The alliance’s contract with Hythiam requires the group to promote Prometa. In March, Schmidt-Whelan pitched the treatment to the County Council, which voted to spend $400,000 to try the treatment in Drug Court.
Schmidt-Whelan won $395,000 in state funding for Prometa last spring during the 2008-09 budget process. The Legislature also added about $105,000 for a study at the University of Washington to see whether the treatment works. The results are due in June 2009.
Ladenburg and Pierce County legislators, including Flannigan and Rep. Jeannie Darnielle, D-Tacoma, pushed to have the funding provisions added to the state budget.
Hythiam helped with the lobbying by sending a doctor to brief legislators on Prometa. Schmidt-Whelan said she hired a lobbyist to “get money for the alliance for Prometa.”