You know, Mr. Kimbrough, no offense but I think you're full of crap on this one. You never showed the least concern for employees who'd made past mistakes until your new, star appointment turned out to be one of them. Now you tell us it was never your intention to do that, but you've had nearly 500 employees - about a tenth of TYC's work force - worrying day to day whether you'd fire them over similar indiscretions for the past two months!
Under a Youth Commission personnel policy put into effect April 13, in a get-tough move to rid the agency of convicted felons working as guards and caseworkers, no one convicted of one of five types of crimes can be hired, including those convicted of a Class B misdemeanor within the past five years.
"That was not the policy I asked for, and we're going to change that policy," Jay Kimbrough, the agency's conservator, said when asked Thursday about the apparent conflict between the policy and Harrell's past.
"It was my intention that our policy follow that of (the Texas Department of Criminal Justice), that people who had Class A and B misdemeanors in the past five years not be allowed to work in correctional positions. But TDCJ does allow people with misdemeanor convictions to work in other positions, and that's what I intended to allow at TYC."
Ward's article offers further evidence that this new policy has been implemented haphazardly with little forethought or oversight and that many mistakes have been made already including wrongful terminations:
Kimbrough said that in recent weeks, officials have discovered that some people the Youth Commission fired for having past felony convictions, in fact, have since been found to have been convicted only of misdemeanors. He said they will be eligible for rehire, as long as they fit the new policy after it is corrected.This is turning into a witch hunt - most people being targeted by TYC's administration for termination have nothing to do with any of the scandals that have surfaced. Instead, they're being punished for prior history that in every instance the agency already knew about through criminal background checks when they were hired.
Kimbrough said only "a handful" of people are in that situation.
Even with the proposed policy change, which would be to his benefit, Harrell said Thursday that he thinks the revised rule will still be "too restrictive."
"I support the proposal that prohibits people convicted of violent felonies and sex offenders from employment," he said.
"But someone who had a run-in with the law and changed their life for the better is exactly the kind of person you want involved in in criminal justice at TYC," Harrell said. "There is a certain perspective that actual experience gives you."
Firing people who nobody believes were abusing kids makes TYC less safe, not more so. I don't think they've rooted out all the actual scandal yet, and this ill-conceived "reform" has done little but harm employee morale and set the agency up for a raft of (probably successful) wrongful termination lawsuits. Kimbrough should take Harrell's advice and narrow the employment restriction - he's overreaching, and this incident is just one of what I predict will be many going forward that make the policy, and its originator, look pretty foolish.
UPDATE: Several lawmakers called for Harrell's resignation over this, but he and Kimbrough say he'll stay. That seems a little petty for reps to be calling for his head. I guess the pols get so used to grandstanding on this topic it becomes difficult to stop. This is a dumb rule that deserves to be changed, not just for Will Harrell but for everybody.
See prior Grits coverage:
- ACLUTX chief to become ombudsman
- TYC moves forward with firing misdemeanants
- Not just felonies: TYC reviews employee criminal histories including misdemeanors
- Whitmire: TYC employees with felonies should get case by case review
- TYC to fire 66 employees with felonies; 400 with misdemeanors await news of fate
- Overreaction: Don't ban every felon from TYC employment