As of yesterday, an astonishing 93 people have been "suspended, terminated, or forced into retirement" reported Mike Ward at the Austin American Statesman ("Youth Commission suspends four superintendents," May 15). Ward's article answered several questions TYC employees raised in comments to this post (which as of this morning has received 409 comments - a Grits record!) about the fate of leaders at various units.
Here are the reasons TYC gave Ward for terminating four more superintendents on Monday, two of whom themselves replaced their fired predecessors less than two weeks ago:
It seems like executive director Ed Owens didn't do a great job selecting new supers if two recent people he just promoted were terminated by the conservator within two weeks! I'd be very interested in seeing an analysis of those 93 employees to determine how many were sacked for cause, how many were ex-felons, and how many were actually linked to scandals at the agency.
•Eduardo Martinez, named acting superintendent of the Evins Regional Juvenile Center in Edinburg just two weeks ago to replace Bart Caldwell, who was terminated after being accused of policy infractions.
Hurley said Martinez was suspended with pay after being accused of failing to notify law enforcement and parents about an alleged sexual assault in March at Giddings State School, where he previously served as superintendent. Hurley said Martinez will be replaced, until the investigation of him is complete, by Melody Vidaurri, security coordinator at the agency's Austin headquarters.
•Blu Nicholson, named acting superintendent of the Crockett State School a week ago to replace Don Freeman, who was terminated after being accused of not following policy in disciplining an employee. Hurley said Nicholson was suspended "pending investigation of prior allegations of mistreatment of youth." Other officials said the allegations involve inadequate discipline he ordered for an employee who slapped a youth. Until the investigation is complete, Hurley said, Jerome Williams, a juvenile corrections official at the agency's Austin headquarters, will serve as acting superintendent.
•Debra Dick, superintendent of the Edna Tamayo House in Harlingen, who is accused of inappropriate use of state resources. Investigators said she had been accused of improper use of postage and overnight express services. Her interim replacement will be an assistant, Hurley said.
•Lisa Cook, superintendent of the McFadden Ranch in Roanoke, who is accused of interfering with the reporting and investigations of incidents at the facility. Her interim replacement will be an assistant, Hurley said. Investigators said there are allegations that she limited kids' and staff members' access to abuse and wrongdoing hot lines.
I don't have a single problem cleaning house of employees who've abused kids or covered up wrongdoing by others, though such charges must be proven in an administrative hearing for terminations to stick. But the gal sacked for improper use of the Fed-Ex makes me think they're digging pretty deep into the well of violations to come up with a maximum number of firings, likely aiming to impress the media.
Well, they've impressed me, but not in a good way. Here's my impression: The conservator is hoping the public will confuse activity for achievement. He hopes that scores of terminations (most unrelated to any sex scandal) and shuttering two or three units will send a message to the public that the Governor and the Lege "did something" about TYC.
Don't get me wrong, TYC desperately needs to be revamped (as does TDCJ). I broadly support most of the reforms that made it into the major TYC legislation and think moving toward smaller units designed for juveniles and closer to the cities the kids come from heads in the right direction. I only think that to reform an agency, you need the support of the majority of workers who didn't do anything wrong and aren't responsible for the bad acts of their superiors or coworkers. The firing of a 56 year old man for a burglary committed at 19 (that the agency knew about when they hired him) does nothing to improve the agency and destroys both morale and institutional cohesion. Except for legislation that will reduce TYC's inmate population, nobody is addressing TYC's real problems.
I've heard (unconfirmed) rumors that Jay Kimbrough will probably be leaving as conservator soon after the Legislature goes away, though I have no idea of whether he'll be replaced as conservator or if after that Ed Owens will just be in charge. Either way, I'll bet you as soon as the Lege leaves town, the mass firings will cease and TYC will then launch a desperate new hiring campaign - what choice will they have?