Friday, May 25, 2007

Ombudsman's conviction causes TYC conservator to reverse policy

TYC will NOT automatically fire any employee convicted of a misdemeanor in the last five years, says conservator Jay Kimbrough, now that the media has reported that his high-profile appointment for ombudsman, ACLU of Texas director Will Harrell, was convicted of reckless driving three years ago. Wrote the Statesman's Mike Ward ("TYC to adjust hiring policy," May 25):

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."

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!

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.

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."

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.

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:

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wonder what other skeltons are in Harrell's closet? I am sure it is pretty full.

Anonymous said...

KIMBROUGH GET OUT! You have screwed up enough, thank you very much! WHAT A JOKE WE ARE! The state of Texas has become a joke, TYC is a joke, the Governor is a joke and biggest and loudest dumbass in the whole bunch - Kimbrough - is the biggest joke of all. Take all your flunkies, Owens and Pope and get the hell out! You can't cover this up, you can't spin it, you're legally liable and should be specifically named in hundreds of law suits. Dear God in Heaven, please save us...only You can now!

Anonymous said...

What if, by some miracle the accused administrators at Pyote were to be acquitted? Could they reapply for their jobs? They would not be convicted felons. Both could claim discrimination if refused a job. I guess they could hire them first then fire them "at will." Nothing is getting fixed at TYC. They are throwing a lot of money around, but ultimately what was alledged to have happened to some of the students is being done to the taxpayers of this state.

Anonymous said...

@ 9:42am isn't Harrell a flunkie too

Rambo said...

It's a real shame what the faithful, well-meaning employees have been put through. I, along with many others who have made mistakes in the past, am still waiting in limbo to be told whether or not I still have a job.

I made some mistakes nearly 20 years ago. I have been with the agency for over 12 years. I have always disclosed my past to the agency, and have withheld nothing. The agency has invested many tax dollars in my training, knowing that I had a criminal record, but also knowing that my experience was invaluable to the agency.

I am the guy TYC has called upon many times to fix things at various facilities. I left my family at home for weeks and months at a time to help the agency, and my wife supported me throughout my career with TYC. She never complained that she sometimes had to take a backseat to the agency.

Kimbrough, Perry, Whitmire, and the rest of the politicians all have skeletons in their closets. I wonder where they would be if they had been caught? They all want power, fame, and glory. They care nothing about the children we serve, only about themselves.

A vast majority of the employees being fired for past indiscretions have never harmed any youth in TYC, and work there because they have a genuine concern for the well-being of those youth. It saddens me to see that our politicians seek to fire hundreds of good-hearted employees to make it appear as though they're addressing the true cause of the scandals. Such ignorance! Most of the employees currently under the gun have not committed any offenses against the youth we serve.

Last month, Harold Dutton was arrested for DWI. He still has his job. Now we find that Harrell has a record, and Kimbrough wants to backpedal so he can keep his new star in place. Kimbrough says the policies were not written as he intended. I can tell you that the higher-ups who still remain in the agency are still employed only because they are all yes-men (and women) who have sold their souls to the devil, and they wrote the policies exactly as they were instructed. These poeple and the politicians they work for have no concept of integrity!

Does anyone in the agency still have integrity and conviction?

almost outta here said...

anon at 10:22am...I think a lot of people in TYC still have integrity and conviction. And those of us who do...are laughing our asses off over this one...it's either that or cry most days.

And this is about the funniest damn thing EVER.

almost outta here said...

oops...meant rambo at 10:22. Too used to everyone being anonymous.

Rambo said...

Anon at 11:02

I know a lot of folks in TYC with integrity and conviction. Unfortunately, they are all out in the field. I think these qualities are becoming very scarce at CO.

Anonymous said...

Did you say someone has conviction! You better be careful. They might get fired...

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone. It seems like those with the "power" have lost focus on why we are in this mess. Just suppose by some chance like anon 10:00 AM said, those two in Pyote are acquitted or the incidents never happened, how is the agency going to look? What if the youth made up the whole thing to get attention? Kimbrough and that bunch have ruined the lives of some good people. What a coincidence......the policy has now changed for felons, etc. And, you right, those who were left in CO only wrote what they were told.

Anonymous said...

Rambo, never forget that no good deed ever goes unpunished.

You may have done lots of good for TYC but this does not matter to the new Central Office folks. You may have stacks of evidence that you have done great things for TYC, but when it all comes down to it they only see that one blemish on your record.

Anonymous said...

Bimbo strikes again! This guy must be working for the Trial Lawyers Association drumming up business. What a clear example of disparate treatment. Has Bimbo lost his mind? He has opened the door to a flood of law suits. I like the way he tried to put the entire thing off on others not writing the policy the way he intended. What a load of BS!
Bimbo micro managed the policy change and there were no misunderstandings. Wind-up the Bimbo doll and watch him lie and spin and blame everyone else for everything. Wind him up again and he displays all 9 thinking errors. Governor Perry keeps strange company if Bimbo is one of his buds. Maybe Bimbo will fire Owens and Pope for the Policy screw up! You just got to love this soap opera; as the Bimbo turns!

Anonymous said...

Here we go again.....CHANGE the rules to let Harrell in. He will walk away with $85,000 of taxpayer money and he shouldn't have been hired to begin with...you know, that Class B little drunk driving deal that he got dropped to reckless driving. Hell, Folks, the color of justice is green and we will be paying someone who shouldn't have qualified for the job to begin with. Do you ever wonder who he might be sleeping with....????

Non-degreed but not dumb in Hickville said...

How is the instance of fixing the policy the way Kimbrough supposeably intended it to be any different then when CO would give approval for a felon to be hired? It seems to me he is doing the same thing but he is "crying" oops that's not how I meant it. How dumb does he think us hick folks out here in this towns he is calling “rural areas” are?

Anonymous said...

anon@2:02...that question is just too loaded to answer...I think they're all sleeping with each other. There can't be any other explanation for all the 'favors' being done for certain people. As we've seen in many posts over the past months, there are many questions yet unanswered about the various 'political connections' of the various new players (as well as old ones) in the Central Office game. Given time, I'm sure they will be exposed - it just happened with Harrell.

The sad part of that is what is left of TYC's credibility will be shot, not that there is much left now. But in the end we can thank Kimbrough and his crew of flunkies for all of this! What a cluster #$&@.

Being from West Texas, do I think the two from Pyote could be acquitted? - possibly. Anything can happen in the criminal justice system. Just look around us.

Who would have ever thought one state could gather so many idiots together in one place to screw up so much in such a short amount of time...only in the great State of Texas folks - where political corruption is alive and well!

Anonymous said...

It is amazing that if you are "important" that the policy, and firing don't apply to you. I have been working in the criminal justice field for 25 years it is really hard to hold your employees to one standard if you are not willing to hold anyone you like to the same standard.

Anonymous said...

There is a rumor that Mr. Harrell also has a drug conviction out of New York

Anonymous said...

haha - glad to see nobody is buying the old "it's not MY fault - they didn't do what I told them!" line. The headline might as well have read Kimbrough says 'Oh, I didn't mean HIM!'

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the media will just let this little whoopsie die on the vine and the general public will never have it seared into their brains like all the news about abusive TYC employees has been.

Morale is rock bottom and every week we host going away parties for multiple employees who've worked at the facility for years and years. I can't think of anyone in the building who isn't applying for jobs elsewhere, so the HR crisis hasn't even hit yet.

What happens when a facility no longer has enough employees to cover a shift? Will the media be on Kimbrough's side despite this fatal flaw in his "plan"?

Anonymous said...

Kimbrough's plan:
1. Fire a bunch of hard working, honest folks - check
2. Close down some facilities and put people out of work- check
3. Blame all of the problems I caused on someone else - check
4. Collect my check - chi-ching!!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ 3:32 - that is an example of a comment that, unless it turns out to be true in all its aspects, could be deemed libelous by the courts. Remember - unless they've been convicted, it's libel to say somebody committed a crime, and saying it's a rumor won't be a defense.

For the record, I've know Will for seven years and while he has his faults, I've never heard anything about any past drug conviction, so be careful saying stuff like that.

As I've mentioned before, I can't track who y'all are, but there's no telling if Google/Blogger can if the IP addresses of commenters were ever subpoenaed. From the IP address they can ID your computer.

I pretty much let the comments run free down here, mainly because current case law says the blogger (me) is not responsible for statements by commenters (y'all), so if you screw up down here you're on your own. That said, if you screw up down here, you're on your own. So don't libel people - try not to even come close, even for people you don't like. It's mean, and wrong, and not worth it if somebody hauls your ass to court. best,

Anonymous said...

Let post the criminal background check publicly and see if its liable or not.

whitsfoe said...

Well said Grits. You know, I hate that our Ombudsman has a criminal history. BUT, I'm pretty glad he came on board because he just saved about 400 jobs at best guess. That new policy won't last long either. If they go with Will's plan, that would be the better plan. See, the Ombudsman is already advocating for the staff and not just the kids. Thanks Will, and I hope you can get these folks at CO to see the light!

Anonymous said...

Man you should see all the fired employee lawyers showing up. They may want to set aside some of that money for these lawsuits, and I doubt that it'll take ten years to get it done. There were some high power attorneys up there the past few days... this is going to get wild!

Anonymous said...

I CAN'T WAIT!!! Can we televize it like the legislative hearings? It only seems fair.

I never thought I would say this, but God Bless the Attorneys:)

Go get 'em guys!

Anonymous said...

You know, if I were a MSM reporter, I'd be investigating this story. It's a trip. The way those attorneys dress, wow. I bet one of those suits would pay my mortgage for a year. And what they're driving? Wow. I don't ever think the Brown-Heatly building parking garage has ever seen the make up of so many Mercedes, Escalades, BMW's, and so forth. Hell, you'd think we were some Fortune 500 company! And you KNOW state employees can't afford those vehicles with this little 2% "pay hike???" they gave us!

But seriously (not that I'm kidding about all of this), the decisions some are making regarding the employment status of those who had NOTHING to do with the WTSS scandal should be a concern to every tax-payer in this state. After all, wouldn't you want your tax payer dollars go to something a little more beneficial to the public, like, maybe the Innocence Commission that I've been reading about lately as opposed to these future settlements? I bet with the money they pay out on these settlements, Texas could have built the foundation for this valued project.

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't Will Harrell, it's Jay Kimbrough and his cronies. I thought that all of these changes they're cramming down our throats were supposed to make TYC better. They haven't! As far as I can see, we have replaced the old corrupt system with another; one cover-up artist with another; one person who could well be described as the poster child for threatening and retaliating against anyone who has a personal opinion and dares to express it; and one thinks he can do no wrong. The more things change, the more they stay the same!?! I wonder if anyone of these folks ever read the TYC Guiding Principles. They are what we need to be focusing on. One blogger asked if anyone in TYC had any integrity and conviction any more. They are out in the field with ethics and care and concern for both the youth we serve and staff who aren't pedophiles, child abusers or various other kinds of criminals waiting to see if they'll still have a job when the Kimbrough machine moves on to "save" another troubled agency.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ 5:57 - if you can prove it, do so. If you're just rumormongering, I'm asking respectfully that you not make allegations of criminal conduct without proof. Don't be mean-spirited or gloat over others misfortunes, for heavens sake - shcadenfreude is an ugly and unhealthy attitude.

That said, I agree I'd like to see those lawsuits televised: Law & Order: Human Resources Unit. :)

sequence said...

This Harrell deal is a PR disaster, as if we were short on them lately! If he wasn't former ACLU, the MSM would be having a field day with this. I agree that Kimbrough saying that he did not know what the policy said looks horrible! He would have been much better off to ditch Harrell than to stay with him and use that lame excuse. The real mistery and tragedy to me is that we are now "at will" employees and the media seems to notice or care not at all. I hope that "at will" status does not bode well for the good, hard-working folks at TYC!

TYC Employee said...

I think Will has the potential and the skill to be a strong advocate for the kids and the staff.

His views have been consistent -- I remember reading his opposition to Kimbrough's position back at the beginning of this whole mess. He has long been opposed to the new hiring policies -- not just when they had the potential of affecting him. (And to be part of saving the jobs of 400 + employees at the same time is a huge bonus!)

Anonymous said...

I used to be a fan of Will Harrell but this news about brings up several disturbing points that I can't ignore:
First, Kimbrough knew about the conviction and chose to keep it secret. Sounds like a cover up and this agency was supposed to be transparent. Harrell's record only became public because the press discovered it.
Second, Harrell stated that he did he did not notice provision No. 5, which prohibits employment to anyone with a Class A and B misdemeanor conviction or the equivalent within the past five years. That doesn't give me much confidence in his abilities if he doesn't pay attention to the detail on the application.
Third, Harrell's conviction for reckless driving (plead down from a DWI?) was not the mistake of youth, as many of the others were, but of an adult man. His act potentially put others in danger and he should have known better.
Fourth, the agency now refuses to fire him and he is refusing to resign. Does he believe he deserves special treatment? What about the others who have not been working for the past several months? If Will had integrity, he would insist that the agency treat him the same way it did the others. He could then work to get the policy changed so that all the staff in this position could be reinstated.

If Will is willing to bend this rule, which others will he bend to suit himself? What other rules will the administration be willing to bend at their discretion? Sounds like the kind of decision-making that got the agency into this mess. Nothing has changed. This administration is as corrupt as the previous. They (Kimbrough, Owens, Pope) need to go and Will needs to go with them.

Anonymous said...

You know, 8:34, I feel you, I really do. It's frustrating to see favoritism at play so blatantly while good people leave right and left. I'm angry, too.

But here's my deal: Grits is right that the whole witch hunt thing has to stop. They need to go after people who abused kids, not people with misdemeanors who never did anything at TYC but help the kids. This agency has 50% annual turnover! This insane purge of qualified people, which is probably illegal and certainly harming the agency simply has to stop, and if it's this incident that stops it, good. At some point we've got to move forward, because if we stay on this path they're going to have to staff TYC with National Guard troops because there won't be anyone left.

Anonymous said...

Folks, having him employed just saved many who were going to be effected by this policy, so given that, having Will is a thrill for many.

And as far as those at the capital calling for his resignation, go screw yourself. You need to go back to Salem you witch hunters. Who called for his resignation? Please name them so we can remember this in the next election. I think we need to clean house in both chambers. I’m flipping my middle finger at the capital right now.

Anonymous said...

Law and Order: Human Resources Unit - Ha, Ha! That's a good one! Those ratings would be through the roof:)

But seriously folks - I am worried about what is going to happen after this legislative 'circus' is finally over...the National Guard thing is probably not too far off the mark.

We have who knows how many staff suspended 'indefinitely' for no GED, HS diplomas, felonies, misdemeanors, passing gas in the hallway, etc., etc. Who is going to run the facilities? These ridiculous uniforms are causing issues out in West Texas, - due to intense heat, staff are drenched in sweat - NOT GOOD. We've got staff ready to leave over a stupid uniform for crying out loud! I can't blame them really - I don't want to sit in my sweat all day either.

What happened to common sense? That used to be considered important in TYC, although I haven't seen much evidence of it in several years now.

I'm just venting a little and looking for some encouragement from somewhere. We're trying to hang on out here when it appears those in Austin would prefer we just give up and go away! I'm not ready for that yet, but I'm getting close:(

I attended our local High School graduation last night and it lifted my spirits some. I looked around at the 140 or so graduates and thought to myself - what is so bad about a small rural community? I looked around and counted in the audience most of the community leaders in attendance. How many of our TYC kids can say they know their city Mayor? Not many I'm sure. I firmly believe the influence, values, and investment of a community can make all the difference in the lives of young people. I guess the key is how interested the community is in the kids. I don't want to sound too negative, but I'm afraid many of the communities our youth call home may not be that interested.

Anonymous said...

Rep. Jim McReynolds, D-Lufkin,,Rep. Delwin Jones, R-Lubbock, Reps. Sylvester Turner and Scott Hochberg, both Houston Democrats are the ones who called for Will's resigination. Let's see if we cant resign them this next election.

whitsfoe said...

I got Houston covered given my desire to take out Elmer Fudd.

Anonymous said...

God love ya Whitsfoe!

Anonymous said...

I like this quote from the latest article: Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, said that Harrell should be allowed to stay because 'Who among us hasn't tossed back a few and decided to take a drive? That just ain't right.'"


OK, not really. *snerk*


Sooo...any thoughts on the OTHER piece of news in the paper today, where Kimbrough was just appointed Deputy Chancellor of Texas A&M by the Board of Regents on Friday?? Er...can someone call aggieland and ask when's his start date??

Anonymous said...

DMN reports that he will no longer be the conservator as soon as the Lege adjourns on Monday

dwts said...

It seems to me this is just another example of why this policy is a stupid, knee-jerk response to a problem that never existed. The lege wants to call for Will's resignation? Did they demand Dutton's resignation for his arrest? Or those of what I suspect are hundreds of other elected officials who have been busted for DWI?

And, for those of you who think this news has saved all those jobs - look at the new policy. It still includes class A misdemeanors. (unless they changed it again last night)

I hope Will stays and gets executive to change this policy completely. This is a rehabilitation agency and we, more than any other entity in this state, should act on the believe that one criminal conviction/ ajudication should not keep a person from getting a job.

OH and someone please tell me DMN is right and Jay is gone soon!

flawedplan said...

I understand the sense of unfairness expressed, but just thinking about the kids, who have had abysmal father figures and role models in their lives; abusive, absent, unavailable, alienated, authoritarian, autocratic -- and those are just the "A"s -- I reckon Harrell's past will enhance his rapport and influence with his charges.

He's one of them, he paid his debt, put it behind him and moved forward with his life. He's a big, gentle man, who chooses not to intimidate, but use his words to persuade, which itself will be a revelation to those kids. He will foster and teach alternative ways for men to be in the world, without even trying; he's exactly where he needs to be to do his real work in the world.

Fathers For Equal Rights said...

I hope this isn't male bashing:

"He will foster and teach alternative ways for men to be in the world, without even trying; he's exactly where he needs to be to do his real work in the world."

Well, Miss... I hold one of those donkeys everyday... so could you please elaborate?

Anonymous said...

i think you people are missing the point. this isn't about Harrell's qualifications for ombudsman -- its about the process that installed him. now the credibility surrounding the entire restructuring is in question. this is not about whether is conviction should bar him from TYC employment -- its about whether or not we can trust Kimbrough and Harrell to professionally improve TYC management and restore integrity to the agency.

Anonymous said...

I haven't had much experience yet with Harrell, but it should be pretty obvious by now to anyone that we absolutely can't trust Kimbrough to build anything.

Anonymous said...

I hope the door DOES hit him on the ass on his way out!

fathers for equal rights said...

And does that mean Will can't be of some benefit to our girls as well? Why did you mention just men? Do you not think that the real man doesn't love his children just as much as mom does? Why were you gender specific in your comment? F-that. Dad... I know I'm getting pissed, but ugh...

flawedplan said...

I've been challenged by an MRA? I quake.

Anonymous, you think it's about about the agency, I think it's about the kids. I support Will Harrell's appointment without qualification. He'll be the first non-asshole male authority figure they'll meet, and who's place is to serve and protect them.

Let the healing begin. Seriously.

flawedplan said...

Are you talking to me, MRA?

I was thinking primarily about girls when I posted my original comment. Still am, as one who uh, gets it.

asshole guy said...

Well, you're pretty flawed:

"He'll be the first non-asshole male authority figure they'll meet, and who's place is to serve and protect them."

I think Will tha' thrill be a great asset to our agency. No doubt.

But that's no credit to you. Come call any of us an “asshole” and I'll show you the whole ass, not just the “hole.”.... I'm at 45th and Lamar. I might be having coffee at 7:00 a.m. at Starbucks across the street. I'd love to have this "asshole" conversation then and there. I’ll be the man in the suit, you know, the asshole guy.

Anonymous said...

It's difficult to pick you out, all of you in Austin are A holes in suits.

Anonymous said...

Well there's your typical male bashing Feminist Nazi. I wear a suit and that makes me an asshole? lol!

Anonymous said...

The whole point of this mess, is that the rule was bent to accmodate a friend. The conservator's policy had an "oops" in it, which he stated he did not make. So, the policy was rewritten to accomodate the new "team member." We are expected to look the other way because he's obviously smarter than the rest of us. Isn't this what got us in trouble in the first place? It's just another set of "good ole boys" with different faces and it seems larger egos.

TYC has become the laughting stock of the state of Texas, in the same category as the speaker of the house comedy, playing right now at your favorite local capital.

All ye felons and misdemeants, take stock and stand up for what you believe and fight for your jobs. Policy can be re-written for every single one of you. Afterall, you made just a little "oops" and I'm sure that's not what you meant, is it?? Of course you probably won't get the taxpayers to dish out $85,000 a year for your jobs, but at least you'll have one.

We all aspire to be as smart as the conservator and walk in his shoes because obviously, not one of us could ever fill them and truthfully, who in their right mind would want to?

Anonymous said...

What is a "MRA?