Monday, March 05, 2007

New TYC chief threatens employees?

Having highlighted Grits commenters yesterday, here's another informative comment that just came in (5/5) which, if accurate, bodes ill for new Texas Youth Commision executive director Ed Owens. I nearly added it as an update to yesterday's post, but if true this deserves its own item. Said an anonymous self-identified TYC employee:
The new acting Executive Director sent out an email threatening TYC staff he would review all of our employment and fire us if we do not meet his expectations. The threat was made after he told us how great he is! If the governor and legislature are not careful they will have to call out the National Guard to work TYC because most employees are very angry about the threatening email the new Executive Director sent to his employees. Once again the administration is corrupt and blames the lowly workers. TYC Administration is the cause of the sex scandals and the under staffing of TYC. The legislature carries some of the blame for the dangerous working conditions at TYC.

I am ashamed to let people know I work for TYC. I am ashamed not because I have physically or sexually abuse any of the youth at TYC, but because the damage the TYC Administration has done to all of our reputations.
Send me a copy, somebody, if you got one of these letters! I'll publish a de-identified version. (That means with your name and identifying information removed!)

Calling out the National Guard to work at TYC units - now there's an image that hadn't yet come to mind! Given the effect of bad recent PR on recruiting, not to mention that TYC's annual staff turnover had already been reported as anywhere from 48% to 75%, maybe it should be part of the conversation.

One thing is for sure - the Sunset Review and legislative oversight process didn't do TYC justice. This agency should be 'Sunsetted' again before the 2009 session, and conceivably sunsetted out of existence.

UPDATE: Here's the letter. You tell me: Was this a veiled threat to employees or a needed tone of urgenccy:
To: All Texas Youth Commission Staff

From: Ed Owens, Acting Executive Director

Date: March 2, 2007

Governor Rick Perry asked me this week to serve as the Acting Executive Director of the Texas Youth Commission. When the TYC Board unanimously approved my selection for this position, I gladly accepted the challenge. It is my belief that I was appointed to serve in this position based on my 30+ years experience in corrections, for the practical knowledge that I have gained through the direct supervision of offenders, and for my proven track record in being an effective leader. It is my intention to use my knowledge and skills to assist TYC in becoming a national model for juvenile correctional practices.

As each of you are keenly aware, there are numerous challenges facing me, the Board, the agency, and each of you. With this in mind, I strongly encourage each of you to focus on the key reason for your current professional existence – the incarcerated youth whom we serve. It is also incumbent upon you to adhere to the values identified in the agency’s current mission statement: protection, productivity, rehabilitation, and prevention. I must impress upon you that these words are not to be taken lightly, but should be viewed as ‘value driven words’ that I expect each of you to embrace each and every day that you enter the workplace. Anything less is unacceptable.

I view the youth incarcerated in our facilities as both offenders and victims. They were sent to this agency for rehabilitation, not for punishment or victimization. It is my responsibility to ensure that this agency selects and hires mature, responsible individuals who can assist in making a positive impact on these youth’s troubled lives. To this end, one of my first tasks is to thoroughly review each staff member’s resume and to conduct interviews with individuals in management positions to determine your suitability for continued employment with this agency. It is my intention to have a solid management team who can infuse and effectuate change. I believe that the future successes of this organization are contingent upon the strength and dedication of the people selected to serve.

In closing, I am encouraging you to continue to do your jobs effectively. It is important for the agency to provide a safe and secure environment for the offenders and for you, while also protecting the communities where our facilities are located. During the next few weeks it is possible that we have to adjust our schedules to accommodate various entities collecting information on criminal and/or civil matters. During this process, your full cooperation is expected. Many of your may think that there is apermanent dark cloud hovering over this agency. However, I am an optimist and I truly believe that my vision to have this agency become a national model for juvenile correctional practices is attainable. Working together, we can make a difference.

Sincerely,

Ed Owens
Acting Executive Director
The part about reviewing each staff person's resume does remind me of the Bexar County Probation Department squabble. It doesn't sound like ol' Ed's getting off on the right foot over there, does it?

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I got the referrenced. I'm on a work computer...but as soon as I'm not and it can't be traced...I can send you that letter.

Anonymous said...

There are many of us out here who wonder what Ed Owens did for TDCJ. The only time he was seen was in his matching blue suit with Brian Collier at an Appropriations Committee meeting. Oops! Maybe it was Livingston and Collier who had matching suits...you know, they all look alike to me. They sit around beating on their Blackberries as though they actually have work to do. What has Owens got on Perry to get all these lush appointments for he and Miss Rissie?

Anonymous said...

Typical new management maneuever! Take everything away and then when you give it back, you hope to appear to be generous and thoughtful. That is so yesterday....in the mgmt. world, looks like Mr. Owens is way behind the times. Looks like the problem may be that he doesn's have anything to give back. He should have thought of that first. I agree, this does not bode well for TYC!

Anonymous said...

I am a TYC employee. I received the same email. I was not threatened or slighted by the message or the tone. That's just fear and anger speaking through other employees! Maybe some people are afraid the Gov/Leg/Mr. Owens will do the proverbial, "throw out the baby with the bath water."

Hopefully, we are all adults working at TYC. If you are doing your job, following proper policy and procedure, then you will be helping troubled youth find a new future. TYC strives to hold young offenders accountable for their actions and teach them new ways of acting. If staff are not willing/capable of doing the same, then make room for someone who is!

The mission and policies of the agency are not broken. When we are "on task" we protect the rights of young offenders and we make a difference in their lives. The stats show we do a good job. And, yes, we could do even better with more staff - well-trained and paid a decent wage.

Anonymous said...

Little Timmy (TYC Central Office Spin Doctor) must be the author of the above post! I am glad you were not offended by the email in question but TYC employees were. I am even more offended that the upper administration at TYC have made many hard working people look very bad and placed their jobs in great jeopardy.

I find it interesting that San Saba TYC unit and the Marlin Unit will be given back to TDCJ. These are the same two TYC units that tried to let the press know about the dangerous conditions inside of TYC. Looks like PAY BACK to me. Speak up and your job is history at TYC.

The San Saba unit will be closed putting several hundred people out of work. TYC is the primary employer in San Saba. From what I hear the Marlin unit will be moved into the Mart 1 facility. Marlin, Texas will loose 425 TYC jobs and gain about 75 TDCJ jobs for a net loss of 350 jobs. Both of these rural towns will be hard hit and support businesses will close.

Remember the Mart units are where TYC can’t keep enough staff to keep the entire facility open. A relatively stable unit will be moved where many workers will have to spend 3 to 4 hours on the road to commute to work. How long will it before the Assessment and Orientation Unit is an under staffed mess?

If I were given the task of destroying TYC, I could not do a better job than is being done. I could not create the level of personal hardship that is happening to TYC employees and a couple of small Texas towns.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, not Tim Savoy! I'm just an ordinary TYC employee. I take blame where blame is due and give credit where credit is due. I'm not to blame for West Texas and how Central office handled it. It doesn't keep me from doing my job and being proud of what I do.

If you have other issues, then I hope you are writing them all down for the State Auditors or sending them to your elected representative, etc. Please do something constructive with what you know and see -- the belly-aching here will just give you ulcers.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Belly-aching here helps a little!

FYI, when commenters make specific allegations that need to be investigated I've been forwarding them to the relevant folks at the Lege who are looking into things.

That said, now that we have differing interpetations, I really want to see that email! Somebody forward it so I don't have to file an open records request.

Anonymous said...

still stuck on a state computer...but I should have access tonight to one that isn't...if you haven't already recieved a copy of that email by then I'll try to send it tonight

Gritsforbreakfast said...

If you can comment from where you are, you might just cut and paste it into the comments from salutation to signature and leave off the header!

Anonymous said...

As a probation officer I can feel your pain. It's about time Austin put an end to this abuse!

Anonymous said...

Again, I ask how can Rissie and Ed keep their jobs? She is rotten to the bone and so is he and for Mr. Perry to appoint him to this high position, is totally absurd!

Has there ever been a Texas Governor impeached? Now is the time. He is worthless and only out to better himself. To allow even Rissie and Ed be in the same department is against rules and then to appoint Ed to a higher office is totally wrong. You do not threaten employees, you watch to see who is causing the trouble and then get rid of them. Some had better be done about the and TDCJ which is just as corrupt as TYC and no one is even looking at them. Look at the innocent people there, they are the ones who are suffering the abuse dished out by the guards and also the last ones to get paroled. Now is the time to go after them also. Clean our State up!!

Anonymous said...

“Ordinary TYC Employee” – how long have you worked for TYC? Do you work directly with the TYC youth? Have you ever been attacked by a TYC youth? I think your response to these questions might give us a feel for where you are coming from.

You said - If staff are not willing/capable of doing the same, then make room for someone who is! It sounds like you are a legend in your own mind! By the way TYC can’t hire enough people to work as it is so the last thing most of the units is for someone to leave. You sound like you have potential to become TYC administration.

You also said - The mission and policies of the agency are not broken. I think the Legislature might not agree with you. Denial is not a river in Egypt!

Anonymous said...

My concern and confusion came from this sentence, "To this end, one of my first tasks is to thoroughly review each staff member’s resume and to conduct interviews with individuals in management positions to determine your suitability for continued employment with this agency."

It may just be inartfully worded and not meant as a threat. It may be directed more at upper level management...it's hard to tell from the way it's written.

But when he talks about reviewing each staff member's resume...that seems excessive. He can't possibly really mean to look at every single TYC employee. That would be micromanagement at a level that defies belief.

This whole thing is just surreal.

Anonymous said...

Police Investigate All 22 Texas Youth Prisons for Inmate Abuse Tuesday, March 06, 2007 AUSTIN, Texas — Police went to 22 Texas Youth Commission facilities and the agency headquarters Tuesday to investigate claims that young inmates were sexually abused and that agency officials covered it up. Jay Kimbrough, appointed by the governor to look into the allegations at a West Texas youth prison, said the officers would conduct interviews at the prisons and halfway houses, secure equipment and collect documents if necessary. He also issued a warning to agency employees. "If you are part of this gig, you need to move on or we're going to find you and prosecute you," Kimbrough said. Click here for FOXNews.com's Crime center. The Texas Youth Commission houses about 2,700 offenders ages 10 to 21 who are considered the most dangerous, incorrigible or chronic. Its new board chairman pledged Tuesday that the agency would cooperate with the investigations. "I'd like to assure everyone that the board is very, very interested in a new direction of the Texas Youth Commission," Don Bethel said. "We are going to cooperate with everyone." Late last month, state lawmakers questioned agency staff about an investigation in 2005 that had found evidence that high-ranking officials at the West Texas State School in Pyote had repeated sexual contact with some of the 250 boys and young men housed there. An internal investigation found prison staff members had complained about the abuse to their supervisors but that no one took action for more than a year. State lawmakers have complained that they did not know of the problems until this year. But the agency's former chief of staff, Joy Anderson, sent an e-mail about the problem to staff members of several members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee in March 2005. The e-mail, given to reporters, said up to 19 students were alleged to have been subjected to sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior, and said staff members were "deeply" upset by the allegations. Sen. John Whitmire, the committee's chairman, said he never got a copy of the e-mail and didn't even know there was a facility in Pyote until three weeks ago. The Texas Senate asked Republican Gov. Rick Perry last week to fire the board and take over the troubled agency. Perry instead demoted the board's chairman and appointed Kimbrough, his former deputy chief of staff, as a special master to conduct an independent investigation. He also ordered the agency's acting executive director to design and implement a rehabilitation plan. The recently appointed acting executive director, Ed Owens, said the agency will have a "zero tolerance policy of any type of mistreatment of youth." Late last month, state lawmakers questioned agency staff about an investigation in 2005 that had found evidence that high-ranking officials at the West Texas State School in Pyote had repeated sexual contact with some of the 250 boys and young men housed there. An internal investigation found prison staff members had complained about the abuse to their supervisors but that no one took action for more than a year. State lawmakers have complained that they did not know of the problems until this year. But the agency's former chief of staff, Joy Anderson, sent an e-mail about the problem to staff members of several members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee in March 2005. The e-mail, given to reporters, said up to 19 students were alleged to have been subjected to sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior, and said staff members were "deeply" upset by the allegations. Sen. John Whitmire, the committee's chairman, said he never got a copy of the e-mail and didn't even know there was a facility in Pyote until three weeks ago. The Texas Senate asked Republican Gov. Rick Perry last week to fire the board and take over the troubled agency. Perry instead demoted the board's chairman and appointed Kimbrough, his former deputy chief of staff, as a special master to conduct an independent investigation. He also ordered the agency's acting executive director to design and implement a rehabilitation plan. The recently appointed acting executive director, Ed Owens, said the agency will have a "zero tolerance policy of any type of mistreatment of youth."

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Ed Owens is Bill Fitzgerald's brother- and both need to go!!!

Anonymous said...

Scott,

Did the TYC board get info on this and when? Why is Perry not listening to the Lt. Gov. ? Sounds to me like Perry is covering up still. I'm just the avg. Bexar and if I see the problem here with Owens, Kimbrough and Perry then all in the know should be outraged. TYC employees may I suggest the United Steel Workers Union!!!!! If you had a voice then this would have been stopped a long time ago. Welcome to the fight - Hope you can battle on with us Adult Probation Officers and fix this darn broken TDCJ system!!! Join us as we push forward to root out evil and corruption. Sound like you have both. Oh!! by the way bet your wages are low and your understaffed also!! but I'm sure the directors and admin are overpaid!!! Power to the People!!!

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