In an interview, Viernes expressed frustration that supervisors urged him to meet with clinic owners even when they knew about the serious problems found by auditors.
"I get emails from the supervisors, (saying), 'When are these people gonna get paid!'" Viernes said.
Ridley-Thomas' top health deputy, Yolanda Vera, denied pressuring Viernes. The lawmaker's office got involved, she said, to "make sure that these agencies at least are getting some access and having their concerns addressed."
Asked about the CIR/CNN findings regarding Pride's billing, Vera expressed concern. "If true," she said, "I would ask the question as to why are we contracting with this agency."
But Viernes said the message is pretty clear: Help the clinics improve instead of cutting them off.
"There's so much political pressure on us about giving them a second chance," he added. "After all, we're a rehab agency, we believe in giving second chances."
And, as CIR and CNN found, government regulators will dole out second and third chances to just about anyone.