A Texas Youth Commission press release says Executive Director Dwight Harris resigned as direct fallout from the alleged sex abuse scandal at the Pyote facility in West Texas, a story broken in the Texas Observer last week. In addition to a lengthy adumbration of Harris' career with TYC, the press release declared:
This is a sad day for TYC, but kudos to my buddy Nate Blakeslee and the Texas Observer for breaking a story that could lead to major reforms at this troubled agency before the legislative session is done. Sen. Juan Hinojosa's SB 103, discussed earlier here, is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday.
On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee delayed approval of TYC’s budget requests amid news reports of a 2005 Texas Ranger investigation at TYC’s facility in Pyote, Texas. Though Dwight Harris had no prior knowledge of any employee-on-youth sexual misconduct at the facility, news reports inaccurately insinuated he did.
“If I had known about allegations of staff sexual misconduct, I would have called in the Rangers myself,” said Harris. “But, that is irrelevant now. This happened on my watch and I own the ultimate responsibility for it. I don’t want the rest of this session to focus on that. The agency still faces challenges stemming from our expansion in the 1990s and early part of this century. That has to take center stage so that we can find solutions to our safety problems. I know I don’t just speak for myself when I say that we genuinely care about the well-being of our staff and youth.”
UPDATE (2/24): See initial MSM coverage from AP, the Dallas News here and here, and The Brownsville Herald. Rep. Peña has a few choice words. As an aside: Talk about throwing a news story out with the garbage! TYC issued its press release after 5 o'clock on a Friday afternoon by putting the thing on its website! Still, this story is way too big to ignore, especially with Tuesday's hearing approaching, so I bet this PR maneuver won't help much. Expect more coverage in the Sunday papers and before and after Tuesday's hearing.