Monday, April 30, 2007

TYC staff losses up 500%!

Even though annual staff turnover was already 48%, staff departures at the Texas Youth Commission are rising at an alarming rate, with fewer applicants available who want to replace them. The net loss of employees (staff departures less new hires) increased 500% over last year since allegations of sexual and physical abuse surfaced in February, the McAllen Monitor reported yesterday ("Following TYC scandal more employees jump ship, fewer hired," April 29):
In all, 249 workers quit, retired or were fired from agency in the six weeks following the scandal. Another 135 were hired, making the net loss 114.

More than three-fourths of those who left were juvenile correctional officers, the frontline workers who are paid the least and are the hardest to recruit and retain. ...

In the six weeks following news of the scandal, 55 of the 249 people who left were either fired or resigned in lieu of termination, records show. Others were listed as having left because of personal reasons, for a job with better pay, medical problems, or other reasons.
Conservator Jay Kimbrough tried to downplay staff departures, unconvincingly in my view. The Monitor reported, "Losing some of the 4,700 employees may not be an urgent problem at a time when the agency seems headed toward holding fewer youth, Kimbrough said."

But that makes little sense - the biggest reason for reducing the number of inmates was to lower JCO to youth ratios from 24-1 to the recommended 12-1. If TYC loses staff as fast as they reduce the inmate population, it won't help that problem much. In addition, it's still up in the air, apparently, whether employees with past felonies or recent misdemeanors - nearly 500 in all - will be allowed to continue working at the agency.

This exodus risks crippling the agency if it continues at this pace - with staff turnover so high, you can't lose all your institutional memory at a whack and continue to function. Understaffing contributes to increased violence and abuse, and causes the cycle to worsen instead of improve. I was disappointed to see my former boss at the ACLU besmirching TYC staff who left, declaring they probably had "something to hide" - that's a cheap shot:
“I’m quite certain that as soon as it became a big media story, people with something to hide hit the road, and that’s a good thing,” said Will Harrell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas ... “What we want out of this is that the bad apples get out of the barrel,” he said.
That's exactly the opposite of how I'd characterize the recent TYC employee exodus. What I've noticed is that those being targeted for dismissal or bullied into resignations, with a few exceptions, have been people who had nothing to do with any identified scandal at all! Meanwhile, some of those who could have prevented the West Texas scandal are still with the agency.

A few people might have left to avoid wrongdoings discovered, but certainly not all 249 who've left since issue the flared up! That's not even true of all 55 who were fired or pressured to resign, some of whom simply had old felonies the agency knew about when they were hired. Instead, from what I've read from TYC employees in dozens of Grits comments, I'd say uncertainty, poor morale, high-handed threats to staff by new management, and media grandstanding by pols have more to do with demoralizing experienced staff and hastening departures.

In other TYC news, the Austin Statesman visited the Marlin orientation unit and along with two articles published a brief but interesting audio slideshow and also a video of their visit. See their coverage:
UPDATE: My old boss, ACLU chief Will Harrell responds to criticisms of his comments about TYC employees. Since I didn't leave the organization on great terms, I wanted to make sure I passed on his full response to readers to avoid appearing unfair or one-sided:

Scott, I just want you to know two things. I am working hard to get Kimbrough to reverse his position on firing felons and obviously now Misdemeanants. I even sent him your blog from today.

Also, I dont think all TYC employees are bad quite the contrary-- and I am saddened for those who are leaving but who did no harm . I said as much to the reporter but that's not what appeared in print. You know how that goes.
Thanks for the response, Will. I hope you're successful at convincing Kimbrough to change this ignominious policy, since he doesn't appear to be listening to the people who work for him.

56 comments:

TJDO said...

Seems like Ed Owens has fallen off the radar for the time being.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

He shouldn't. He bears as much responsibility as Kimbrough - more for the actual handling of employees.

TJDO said...

I agree. The blood is on his hands.

Anonymous said...

People retiring is a key problem. At senior administrators meeting around the turn of the century they took a poll of persons who would retire in the next 4-5 years. All but 4 people raised their hands.

TYC has done a poor job in retaining and training quality employees to assume the leadership vacuum. Instead sub-standard employees who are willing to do what they are told without questioning have been put into place. (Heck, I know I guy who couldn't pass an exit exam to obtain his masters...probably because he had his secretary write his papers)

Employees who don't understand Morales Vs Turman...

I know several veteran staff who would make excellent supervisors but don't want to be put in the meat grinder as fodder for the higher ups or lose their integrity because they will be asked to do something disreputable...

The folks that could have made a difference quietly faded away...

Anonymous said...

A training class was to be held this week for TYC staff from Mart. It had to be canceled because half of the staff resigned. I said weeks ago the National Guard may have to be called out to work at TYC. It looks like we are getting closer to that happening every day. The agency is coming apart under the new leadership!

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm one of the long-time TYC staff who is trying desperately to get out. I never hurt a kid in my life. Don't have a thing to hide. That guy from the ACLU can suck my ass.

I'm leaving because I don't like feeling threatened. I'm leaving because I don't like that my agency has been taken over by Perry cronies and people who don't have any experience working with juvniles. And I'm leaving because I'm sick to death of having to find out what's going on at my agency from the newspapers and blogs rather than from management.

I've devoted my entire working life so far to TYC, and 6 months ago I would have been sad to leave. But not now.

Anonymous said...

I am kicking myself for not jumping on a job offer I had recently. It is hard for me to make changes in my life at my age. I am a real creature of habit. I think it is getting close for me to bail out too!

By the way Mr. ACLU I didn't have sex with any of the children nor beat any of them! We call your statement a Thinking Error at TYC; Jumping to Conclusions!

Anonymous said...

8:59 Hi Jerome Williams. Still running for Mayor?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@10:25, I notice you choose to comment anonymously, so please respect others who do so. In my experience you're probably wrong guessing at anonymous commenters' identity, but even if not, please respect their decision not to disclose their name.

With all that said, the last TYC comment string hit 90 comments (!). so if anonymous commenters would register pseudonyms with Blogger (you don't have to reveal your identity), it helps sort out the anonymouses talking back and forth.

Thanks,

Anonymous said...

8:59 responds

Not Jerome Williams and I as far as I recall I have never met the man.

As far as your comment goes, it speaks for itself...10:25 a.m.

I am someone who saw what was coming and it tears me up to see the agency that had so much potential be torn apart by the short sightedness and the petty selfish ambitions of few individuals....

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but not too many people use the lingo "leadership vacuum" and have the info. available to them that is posted. The lingo happens to be the same words used in the quote "the person" used in the Manor City mayor article. If people don't want others to figure out who they are, try changing up styles and mannerisms (ie. not using the ... )

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this is true or not, but I overheard someone saying Eric Young (HR) and Don Freeman (Crockett) were let go?

Anonymous said...

These people running the agency could care less. It's all about numbers.

"Chuy" said...

Lets get back to the real purpose of having "Jay" and "Ed" and "Pope" running TYC. It was to bring change, a new light, a new beginning. Here we are less than a month away from this session closing and nothing has been proposed (propaganda) and staff are still leaving as soon as they come on board. I was under the impression that things were all good since the new leadership had taken over. Change for change sake does not solve the issues or the problems. All of us are waiting to be called in and told your no longer needed, and when staff become reactive rather than proactive we make no headway and spend the majority of our time trying to tread water and not make any mistakes. Only one was without sin and they do not reside any Austin, start over while you can and try to redeem yourself by working with staff that still believe we can make a difference in the lives of youth. This entire agency has been torn to shreds based upon the West Texas issue, lets acknowledge that and move forward, we need new ideas, we need staff that believe that youth deserve a second chance (and staff), we need all of this before this sessions runs out, the clock is ticking.

Anonymous said...

"Only one was without sin and they do not reside any Austin, "

Hugh? I'm confused

Anonymous said...

Why are the legislators ignoring Ed Owen's history? Why won't they address it? I know emails have been sent to them asking them why they haven't looked into him and none of them seem to care or try and pass the buck on any answer. I guess since we elected them and they feel safe in their seats for now they don't think they have to respond to us anymore.

Anonymous said...

Chuy

To say the agency "has been torn to shreds based upon the West Texas issue" is an over simplification of the problems in the agency.

The agency was torn to shreds by Dwight Harris and his administrative staff that consistently covered for like minded colleagues and attempted to micro-manage the agency. Dwight and his people cared more about the appearance of doing good rather than doing good.

Eric Young and Don Freeman were part of Dwight's circle and probably need to go.

I do think firing Don Brantley was a mistake.

Signed, not Jerome Williams

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Only one was without sin and they do not reside any Austin,"

I think Chuy's reference was to a holy man from Palestine, and I don't mean Anderson County! :)

Anonymous said...

Amen to that Grits!
I can't think of anyone involved who was tying to live their life as Christ did. If they had been, TYC would have been the best agency in the world to not only protect society but to rehabilitate the youth within it. We can only pray that at the end of all of this, the right people will be in the right places to do positive things that will make remarkable differences in people's lives. Not only for the youth, but the staff as well.

Anonymous said...

Well, Eric Young has been seen in Central Office today. So he may still be with us.

What I really hate about this whole situation is having to hear everything on the internet and never getting solid info from agency management. The gossip mill is rampant.

Anonymous said...

Anyone seen Don Freeman?

Anonymous said...

Grits, you are in fact correct in your assertion that the good ones are forced out. There are a lot of grievances coming, so it should be interesting to observe the mess in the future.

I am saddened and appalled that the ACLU has adopted that mentality toward TYC employees. If anything the Demetria Pope tactic of firing people 'either resign or be terminated and you have 40 minutes to decide' should be on the radar of anyone in the business of protecting civil liberties.

It is shocking to me the allegations they are making about the most moral and credible of employees, when they (owens, kimbrough, pope) are not without major skeletons in their past and would, in fact, be fired from TYC under the tenets that they are bandying around.

I hope each and every one of you will file a grievance if you are terminated.

Anonymous said...

No, I think Freeman is in a Cape Cod cabin writing his latest "World's Thinnest Book" on "Ethics, Morals and How to Politely Decline Extravagant Gifts".

dwts said...

I expect the losses to continue - and not because those leaving have something to hide (maybe some do, but not most). Everyone I knonw is either looking to get out or waiting to decide after May 31 - in the possibly vain hope that we will get a leader. The employees receive practically no information about what is going on, and almost everything I've heard from the "new team" has been a lie or had to be retracted later because they do not know what they are doing.
The terminations for felonies and misdemeanors are not on hold - no matter what the press release may say.

no jailbird said...

Now our HR is saying that we have to provide a copy of our high school transcript or ged's. A copy of the Deploma is not good enough. I am 58 years old and have done my job well and yes I do have a High School Deploma, but I raised three children and worked. I am just about read to tell TYC to Stuff this job where the sun don't shine.

Anonymous said...

To no jailbird...this is getting ridiculous. If HR asks for my college transcripts my head is going to explode considering that I found out about a month ago that they have lost the copies I had to provide them nearly a decade ago when I was hired. (I needed to make copies for another job I applied for...keep your fingers crossed for me)

Anonymous said...

Lydia Barnard is gone. They canned her today.

Anonymous said...

She found out through the newspaper (DMN). They haven't told her anything. Go figure. It was stagged.

no jailbird said...

TO 4:17PM Our HR department said it was legislative request. Ye right..
They got our fingerprints, criminal records and now this. What will they want next our blood or DNA? When will this crap stop? Is this not on the edge of harrasment. Think I will call a lawyer with this new request and ask. I am to damn old for this stuff. This is just another kick in the gut. Get ready to do some hunting for your records 4:17 because Kimbrough & Pope are after blood no matter the cost. I would like to know woh in the legislature is behind this IF at all, Do they think we are a bunch of morons or just stupid? People were hired for years because of a trade that they had been tought through the years and now we are stupid.... Darn I am ticked off.
The witch hunt is still on.....

"Chuy" said...

Come on folks, they could not get you with the felony or misdemeanor crap, now they want you to produce your high school diploma or GED. Our elected officials who continue to allow this to take place should take notice because they are aware of these tactics and turn a blind eye. I still believe they have this complex about doing nothing in the West Texas matter back when it happened, when they were made aware (over a year ago) and this makes them feel good knowing they are purging all those lowly TYC staff that remain. To bad we are not elected if we were we would have no problems at this time.

Anonymous said...

The agency that accredited your school should have some recordes of your transcripts - I think, or at least I hope. Glad you brought that up because my school changed affiations and went under A&M, and well, we all know how they f-things up.

Swamp Man said...

Freeman and Eric Young are still with us. No one was let go today other than Barnard.

Someone please tell be that it wasn't staged. Please. They could have done it on the first round, but they waited until the DMN story broke. I think a "certain visitor, the guy who replaced our CO-PIO, was all begind this... helping a friend. Harley or Hurluy... you know, the one that is quoting an purpously make us look worse then we are. after they let the other one go, or forwhatever reason, went silent (can't remember his name now.) Bet that Harley guy is getting kicks back. Unethical. We needs some investigation in that. Check his deposits in hus banck.

Jay said...

Hurley or Harley was the PR guy for the Real Estate Agency, Insurance or something like this. He is clueless about the juvenile justice system and only states what he is told, 80% of what comes from his mouth is lies and misquotes, name one positive story this "PR-Guy" has stated since coming on board, nada, zipo. These are the ones everyone should be pissed off as well, he cant name one positive release, one success story, if he would get off his knees long enough to see over the desk he might come up with a story.

Anonymous said...

You know, I am going to refrain from giving my opinion regarding Lydia Barnard and Jerome Parsee- but I do want to express my feelings about the way both of these people have been treated in how they were fired or arrested. I don’t' feel it was right.
With Parsee's handcuffing and staged media event (the media showed up before 9 am and he got walked out at 11) so they could video him being walked to a police car that only drove around the property line to the Falls Co. Sheriff's dept. (about a 1/2 mile across a field from the Marlin Unit. You can literally see it from the facility)- that was just unnecessary. They couldn't have called him and just said, "Hey, come turn yourself in"? Who was behind arranging that? Kimbrough and Owens trying to make a statement about firing people? A disgruntled employee with a beef with Parsee? Who ever did- I hope you are given a more respectful consideration when your time comes. That entire "show" for the media spoke loudly to the shallowness and vindictiveness of the person(s) who did. The point you were trying to make was done with the arrest itself. Having him go through the public cuffing, cameras flashing and media filming, being pushed by the officer, then driven to a location where others could just stand where they were and watch the whole trip take place was nothing less than overkill. There was no glory for you in that. There was no show of any respect for another human being.
With Barnard's dismissal- How could it not have been staged? You've had over a month to fire her (or more), but instead waited for this article to print. You either fell to the media pressure to fire her (which means you likely did not have enough evidence to fire her before this- so will it be another wrongful termination?) or you waited until there was enough publicity to make yet another statement about how "serious" you are in cleaning house. You fired her without telling her first, instead you told the media. You didn't allow her to prepare herself or her family for what was about to hit. Not only did she have to face the article that came out, but now she had to face her surprise termination. Again, I am not defending Mrs. Barnard's actions within the agency, but there is a right and wrong way to treat a person. The Administration in charge now needs to take a serious look at themselves and their own ethic. You- Kimbrough, Owens, Pope, (and anyone else involved in these decisions and tactics): You are seriously evening out the scale and making it very hard to distinguish that the old administration was worse than what you are doing. The lines before all of this were pretty clear, the bad guys needed to go. Now, you have lowered yourself to their behaviors. If you are not already there, you are seriously close to being no better than they were. Keep going in the direction that you are, and you will be worse. You have cleaned out most of the "enemy" -those involved in the initial problem but instead of stopping there, you are blowing up bridges, demolishing houses, torching the schools, killing the crops and slaughtering the animals too. Killing programs that could work, targeting and firing employees that were never part of the problem, keeping the employees in the dark about their futures, making changes that had nothing to do with any of the problems and treating people like they have no human worth is air striking and destroying the entire village.
That is just my opinion.
Pinpoint

Lonely in Laredo said...

I have said this once on this page and will say again, this is all political. Has TYC made any strides over the past 2 months? Does TYC have a plan, other than to say "Resoialization as we know it is gone"? What plan do they have after 2 months, "Grandstanding"? If they had any clue what they were doing something would have emerged by now, but since they have no plan they staged these photo ops (Parsee-Barnard-500 TYC youth will be released, Cotton girl, etc) and get on the front page of a news paper to appear they were cleaning house or making strides. Every department in Austin is suppose to turn in their new restructured plan by the end of this week, this would be current TYC staff not the hired ones from TDCJ and Perry's office. Could it be that they need input from the lowly TYC staff? I just wish they would quit the grandstanding and get to work, lets move forward.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is quiting now because they don't want to be caught up in the odd 150-300 employees in that same rural area looking for jobs when HB 2884 sneaks by and all the facilities housing more than 100 kids get shifted over to TDCJ. If you all lose your job at the same time, the job market is a little saturated. Just because the facilities would end up at TDCJ doesn't mean the TYC people would work for TDCJ. TDCJ could come in and bulldoze the facilities if they wanted to.
If HB 2884 passes the house and senate, we have go to all write the govenor to not sign it.

Anonymous said...

Did you all catch that? She was informed through the media. That is some chicken-shit tactics at best. It was a set-up, and it makes me even more distrusting of this Hurley guy. He's gotta be getting some kick backs from the DMN. The FBI needs to look closely at this one. How do you not see "exploitation."

You have to question the timing...

Anonymous said...

There is a storm brewing! Those who had ears but did not hear; those who had eyes but did not see; those who had a voice but did not speak; those who let evil rule their hearts should fear the coming storm! A double headed eagle spreads its wings and takes flight! There is help for the widow's son! The profane will perish by their own design.

Anonymous said...

Whatever Hurley....

Anonymous said...

The bill you're afraid of is HB 2512, not HB 2884. You don't have much to worry about. That bill is still pending in committee.

Kreacher said...

Mike Judge made a film called "Idiocracy" about how stupid people kept breeding at an alarming rate, while smart people didn't. The result was that morons were running the country. It was supposed to be set in the future, but it seems to have already happened. It's no coincidence, I think, that Mike Judge is from Austin.

Anonymous said...

I think he's from Huntsville...

Anonymous said...

To 9:32 pm
Screw that! Parsee and Barnard got what they deserved!They have been wrecking people's lives for years! They deserved to be put out there for everyone to see and humiliated for what they did!

Anonymous said...

In response to 9:05

Mr. Parsee and Lydia Barnard may have done things- some may have been pretty bad. But, before anyone can sit and judge another's actions, you cannot sit next to them, doing the same thing they do and say they are wrong. The administration in charge now needs to be setting the example of how things should be done. Humiliating people has no productive value other than making one's self look better over the sake of others. If this administration is interested in self promotion- they are sitting in the same position as the old administration was. They are no better than those they replaced. Humiliating another person produces no positive benefit for the overall good of the agency. The image of the agency is not changing to that "new" path like they are wanting because the right tactics to make that happen aren't being utilized. There is no honor in shaming another human being. Respect comes from respect. If they cannot rise above this (demoralizing people) and make the changes needed without using tactics that fall into the same or worse category that the prior administration used- then there was no point in making any change.
Pinpoint

no jailbird said...

Maybe Barnard got to stay longer because she is Perry's Cousin?
I wish we could dig up some dirt on Kimbrough, Whitmire and Pope and give them a taste of what they are putting TYC workers through. Maybe we should hire a PI.....

Anonymous said...

What would be the point of finding dirt on them? Owens has his sexual harassment involvement lawsuit with TDCJ out there and no one- not Perry, the Senators OR the media is doing anything with that. Someone has made these people untouchable.

Anonymous said...

Grits- you have a lot of media connections, right? Have you asked them why they haven't covered the Owen's thing?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The main reporters covering TYC at the Observer and the Morning News where the story broke know about it and haven't followed up, and a LOT of media read Grits. My wife thinks it's because I broke it on the blog and since they can't break it they won't run with it - she calls it "blog envy," and it's true that's happened before. Quien sabe?

It's obvious why the pols don't care - Perry has appointed a husband and wife team to run Texas' youth prisons and state parole board, so this is a politically connected couple whose household is in charge of a huge chunk of the Texas criminal justice system. That doesn't explain the teflon coating with the media, though. I really can't explain it.

Is that really true about Barnard being Perry's cousin?!! Can anyone confirm this?

BTW, if Barnard really was informed of her firing through the media, that's beyond disgraceful, it's just flat out mismanagement of personnel. That's ALL on Owens, and deserves harsh criticism regardless of what he knew or didn't know at TDCJ.

To me, Owens should be taking heat on all these fronts, and I'm surprised he seems to be getting it on none of them.

Anonymous said...

Grits I think the reference to being a cousin comes from a DMN article by greg jones in which Banard described herself in an e-mail as a family acquaintance.


"With her career in tatters, Mrs. Barnard reached out to the governor, whom she identified as an old family acquaintance. In an e-mail on Jan. 3 this year, Mrs. Barnard spoke fondly of her two decades at TYC, "a job I have been very successful with and have enjoyed immensely."

Anonymous said...

Grits,
If that is the case (that other media are not covering this because you broke it), then the media people are no better than who they are covering. If they are not working to do their part in making this world a better place, regardless of the publicity of their "by line", they are demeaning their own profession. What have they become- just news Paparazzi? Unless it's the first million dollar picture or story seen it's not worth printing? By the way, no one has actually broke the story on Owens yet in the MSM so they actually would be the first to do so. "The New TYC Administration has Sexual Abuse Skeletons of Their Own". They don't think that would be one of the most popular stories to rock the media? That is just from the public interest stance of it. The more important stance (in my opinion) would be trying to find out if the new administrators are qualified to do what they have been appointed to do. With all of the highly questionable actions this new administration has taken, how any investigative reporter in the MSM doesn't find this worth looking into is beyond me.
Pinpoint

Anonymous said...

Having read an editorial article by the DMN it does appear that they believe that ripping apart the agency, doing away with resocialization, and starting over is the appropriate action to take. I get the feeling they must think that all programs and persons in the agency are corrupt by association.

Just cause there was a drunk at the wheel doesn't mean there was a problem with the car... Sure the system need tweaking... but the problems were largely a result of those in charge running the organization using it to satisfy their own agendas. Have to agree that current administration doesn't seem much different from the previous. Different vocalists, same song and dance...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Pinpoint, you'd be surprised the extent to which most reporters don't cover a story until somebody basically hands the research to them. A few of the best more aggressively pursue stories, but for the most part if advocates don't do a lot of prep work and hand them the goods on a silver platter, it's hard to get coverage.

That's why the post I wrote about today about Bill Parker and Anthony Mikulastik's affidavits in the Dallas News got covered - they emailed the smoking gun (i.e, the affidavits themselves) to multiple reporters (and also to me) and the affidavits basically speak for themselves.

Actually Kathy's theory of 'blog envy' is why I didn't write about the affidavits when I first saw them (at the same time the Dallas News reporters got them). I knew it would have more impact if the MSM reported it, and didn't want to give anyone any incentive not to pay attention to the story. So I waited to see what they'd do with it.

In some ways, though, that's also okay. This blog has a different role than the Dallas News. The longer I do this the more I try to pay attention to and respect such nuances.

After all, my goal is to make the laws and policies better, not to be the guy who breaks every news story (though I do try to cover stuff I think the MSM isn't catcing). Bloggers rely too much on the MSM to disrespect them too badly. best,

Anonymous said...

GRITS IF YOU DIG YOU WILL FIND THEY ARE COUSINS.... ASK HER..

Anonymous said...

Wow, if that is true, that makes Perry look pretty corrupt beyond what is already visible. It sure would look bad if he failed to act on the TYC stuff years ago if he was out to protect family. It does look even worse since Barnard was clearly in the chain that led to the West Texas abuse but was one of the last ones to go until Sunday's article on her. The Perry appointee's (Kimbrough and Owens) couldn't protect her anymore? You're lookin pretty bad Perry.

Unemployed JCO said...

I just wanted to let everybody know...retaliation is alive and well at TYC. I was terminated today. Its funny how just 2 months ago, i was the reporting party about sexual abuse, and they have been after me ever since...anybody know a good lawyer???? Hey...what happened to Ed Owens asking for whistle blowers?? Is Ed going to be making my house payments? This is what you get for doing the right thing...huh?

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