Monday, August 27, 2007

Mikulastik: "If I had been paid a million dollars to destroy TYC I could not have done a better job"

On Saturday I ran the first in a series of guest blog posts about reforming the Texas Youth Commission that I hope will add depth and substance to both Grits' coverage and the overall debate about what should happen at that troubled agency.

Anthony Mikulastik is a former TYC employee who was fired for a 35 year old burglary conviction. Anthony is one of two employees identified by the press who tried to report the alleged West Texas sexual abuse in 2003. He worked for TYC more than 11 years, 2 as a correctional officer and 9 as a case worker III. Before coming to TYC, he was a Chaplain for the Bell County Sheriff’s Department and the Temple Police Department for about 10 years. Thanks, Anthony, for participating in this ongoing blog conversation.

TYC's Orientation and Assessment Unit has made the move from Marlin to Mart, Texas. The move cost the agency nearly a hundred employees, most whom are juvenile correctional officers. Approximately 80 correctional officers signed on with TDCJ just before the move. Meanwhile, the number of resignations rises on a daily basis at the Mart facility.

Case Managers who are being forced to work dorms become little more than stand-in correctional officers. They work shifts up to 12 hours due to the shortage of staff at the Mart facility. I wonder how long it will be before another TYC employee is killed in an auto accident driving home after a long shift?

Former Marlin intake employees who want to keep their jobs are being forced to the Mart 2 unit to fill staff shortages. As I predicted months ago, the move to carry one of the most stable employee groups to prop up a failed TYC location is going to cause mass losses among long term experienced TYC employees. The current TYC administration seems focused on disenfranchising themselves from their only hope of survival: their experienced staff. One blunder after another has occurred at the direction of current TYC management.

TYC youth know they cannot be held accountable for negative behavior under the current system. They get a false sense of security, and TYC becomes an Enabler for the youth’s negative behavior. The very thing the youth were placed in TYC for isn't treated. In fact, just the opposite is happening. Youth are taught to be disrespectful and become violent criminals. When the magic birthday comes, too many will be on their way to the adult prison system.

Less-than-desirable TYC management, who have little or no juvenile experience, appear to be on a mission to destroy TYC, which would ultimately mean a move toward contract care. At least, one can only hope there is a hidden agenda being applied by TYC management. I would hate to think the people in charge of a major state agency who were appointed by the governor could be so ill equipped to operate the Texas Youth Commission.

I saw Grits' report that the idea of contracting out the younger youth has resurfaced once again. I knew the contracting of the younger children would be revisited because there is money to be made. Part of my reservation about the true reasons for contracting out social care programs is the historical nature of the majority party in Austin. The Legislature has cut numerous social programs to the point of crippling them just as they did the funding for TYC. Once again the record speaks for itself.

All of the upheaval was mostly due to the acts of a couple of sexual predators. Bill Parker and I told TYC administration in 2003 about the sexual misconduct and were considered bad guys for bringing it to their attention. Numerous people knew about the sexual abuse including people in the Governor’s office. The head of TYC tried to tell Senator Whitmire about the sexual abuse but he cut Mr. Harris off and told him they could discuss it at another time. Then suddenly after the press ran stories about the sexual abuse at West Test State School everyone was so concerned about the poor TYC youth.

The conservator’s first act was to fire TYC employees with prior criminal histories who had nothing to do with the problems at TYC. No TYC employee with a criminal history was tied to any of the misconduct that I am aware of.

People from TDCJ were brought in to manage juveniles which was a bad move from the start due to the vastly different legal and treatment needs of the two populations. Why weren’t the people responsible for the wrong doing and the people who covered up for them be dealt with in a lawful manner instead of the massive destruction of the agency? Also I would like to know how a sex crime is a gross misappropriation of state resources which was required to place TYC under conservatorship.

The on and off mode of policy making that has come from Central Office shows a management team who is in over their head. No sooner than a new policy is announced it is canceled. The evidence speaks for itself; the current TYC administration has no short term plan, much less a long term plan of operation.

The Texas Legislature shares the responsibility for the TYC fiasco. Political grandstanding was the priority for many members of the Texas Legislature. Again I wonder why the sudden great care of the TYC youth when the Legislature cut the TYC budget session after session. The Governor’s selection of the people to run TYC also has made a bad situation worse.

If I had been paid a million dollars to destroy TYC I could not have done a better job than has been done during the past few months. What a mess!

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when our state government comes up with a plan without thinking it through. Putting TDCJ in charge of TYC was definitely the wrong thing to do, as many critics were saying from the beginning.

The plan was to "clean house", but instead they burned the house to the ground.

Anonymous said...

What is also amazing about this whole mess is how it enabled some supervisors to take advantage of the culture to terminate employees that, along with many others, did not deserve it.

Anonymous said...

It is not just the party in power. Madden and the Governor are Republicans; Hinojosa and Whitmire are Democrats.

Whitmire is not only the Dean of the Senate, but he is the long-term head of the Finance Committee and the Criminal Justice Committee of the Senate. He is the one who was most responsible for the infamous "96 bed" open-bay dorms, and for cutting the TYC budget each session. Of course, our wonderful Governor, not to be outdone by his political rival, ordered additional cuts to TYC's budget. Meanwhile, TYC just kept growing. With regard to Marlin and Mart - someone made the brilliant decision to build a mega-facility that would have to draw staff from the same employment catchment area as Marlin (and to a certain extent, Corsicana). They have never been able to staff the place. Similarly, they were not able to staff the other mega-facility they built near a metropolitan area - Hamilton.

The idea behind the open-bay dorms and the mega-facilities, was to cut costs. After all, TDCJ operates huge prisons, and some of the newer ones have these same open-bay dorms. They manage to control those dorms with one staff on the floor and one in the picket. Why, the reasoning went, could not TYC do the same? Of course, no-one, least of all our Good Dean, stopped to think for a minute that the roles of TDCJ and TYC are different, and that for TDCJ those open dorms are used for Trustees! No wonder they are less staff-intensive!

The polical cronyism did not start with the Kimbrough and the TDCJ imports. What about Ms Cover-up herself, Lydia Barnard? Whose cousin is she? (At least according to her.) It took forever to fire her. Meanwhile good folks who have contributed greatly to the kids of this agency were swept out the door.

Anonymous said...

12:51 Hamilton may be the better example... built and used by TDC, like Marlon and San Saba it was turned over to TYC just long enough to get it upgraded (AC etc) and then returned. In the case of Hamilton, even TDC had the problem of staffing even with a smaller employment requirement. Seems even with the then higher pay for CO's over JCO's chicken plucking still paid better.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this honest assessment of the situation in TYC. I am a former TYC employee, and I left because the current CO is so out of control that they don't know who or what they are.

They are operating under false assumptions. False assumption #1 is that TYC youth are criminally convicted. Not so. They are adjudicated by family/juvenile courts (part of the civil court system) This means that they adjudications can be tied to achievement and progress in treatment. Whereas a criminally convicted adult cannot be held over his period of confinement unless he has had additional criminal convictions since his original committment.

Just as the runaway slave Jim sair to Huck, "Is a cat a cow?"

Apparently our legislature hasn't learned this lesson yet either.

Anonymous said...

With all this being said I really doubt our elected leaders will take fault and do anything about this situation.

If they did they would have to take responsibility, and this will not happen!

It is sad to say but we have elected some of the worse criminals of all. Those that know there is a problem but choose to do nothing about it. They could easily change the course of this ship but are reluctant to do so. I just hope that come election time we remember and start over, tell your friends, relatives, anyone and everyone, to get out the vote. If their not in office they can do no more damage.

Anonymous said...

Anthony, good article with great insight, but you should stop pretending to be a whistle-blower who was mistreated for reporting abuse of youth. Former Marlin staff know better.

Grits: Anthony knows the truth, but you and the DMN have yet to learn.

Anonymous said...

TYC managed by TDCJ staff? Everyone in the Juvenile Probation arena knew this would become a bigger mess. Everyone in the nation knows how good the prison system is in Texas! I run a County Juvenile Detention center and told my representative what a mistake it was to appoont TDCJ people to "straighten" out TYC. No problem, he said. The "experts" will fix it! A Committee meeting is set at the Capitol, 8/29/07, 10a.to "review" the continued problems. Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

Anon 304

Bill Parker and I were interviewed at the same time by the Dallas Morning News. The Texas Ranger who took our sworn statements talked to Bill Parker and me at my home for over two hours. Yes I was involved from the time I interviewed youth who had been to WTSS at Bill Parker’s request. Feel free to talk to Bill Parker and he will tell you I was involved with the complaint in 2003 regarding the sexual misconduct at West Texas State School. If you would be so kind as to give your name I will have Bill Parker talk to you about my part. You seem to know so much but actually know so little. Sign your name so we can let everyone have the truth. You have posted the same remarks in the past without evidence to back up your claim. Why not try to get Bill Parker to back up your story. Could this be a fishing expedition by TYC administration to see how much trouble they are in? Since we don’t have your name I cannot understand your motive. My guess is either you dislike me or you would like to discredit me due to pending legal action against TYC.

I might add major news papers like the DMN and AAS don't run stories without having a second source. Bill Parker was the second source. Greg Jones has talked to Bill Parker at length about the story you make reference to.

No matter how badly you want what you are saying about me to be true it just is not true!

Anthony Mikulastik

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'd add to that Anthony's role in a 2003 complaint has a publicly documented paper trail.

Whether he was fired primarily as retaliation for that or because of a 35-year old felony, I'm sure it makes little difference to the person losing their job. Certainly no one can say AM was rewarded for speaking up on behalf of kids.

It's also true that from day one Anthony has been speaking out on the blog and in the press under his own name, not hiding behind the shield of anonymity. I can't help but notice that's not true, typically, of his detractors. best,

Anonymous said...

Scott, please point me in the direction of the "publicly documented paper trail." I've looked and can't find it.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@5:52 - Here's a Dallas News article talking about it.

Anonymous said...

Scott: Anthony had to use his name from the beginning, otherwise he couldn't have been a whistleblower. He was a good caseworker who worked with a difficult population and I don't blame him for trying to keep his job. But to continually assert that he was fired for reporting mistreatment makes no sense. Weren't all felons terminated?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, but I've read that article already.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@6:06 - If you re-read Anthony's post, he doesn't say what you're complaining about. And @ 6:11, I'm not sure what will satisfy you, then. Must you hear it from a burning bush?

Anonymous said...

I say we should all support our ledge and current leaders. We are heading in the right direction, no doubt. I think most will be surprised in the end. ;>

Anonymous said...

anon @6:45pm please describe the right direction and whose compass are you using, the Three Stooges?

Anonymous said...

'Whether he was fired primarily as retaliation for that or because of a 35-year old felony, I'm sure it makes little difference to the person losing their job." It does make a difference, because retaliating against whistleblowers is illegal, isn't it? I reiterate: Anthony should not have been terminated. All of those good employees were fired so Jay Kimbrough could do what he does best: grandstand.

Anonymous said...

Kindly 7;23.

Our feelings sometimes(oft times) makes us do/say something we wouldn't say/ do if we think about it many times. Say, falling in love with an "ugly fat woman." Men would never do this if not for what they feel. It is beyond our understanding; the reasons that our hearts have are far incomprehensible for our mind to fathom. I wonder if I made it clearer or what? ;>

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@7:28 - once again, please read carefully. Anthony did not claim to have been fired for whistleblowing in this post. If you don't think he should have been fired, I really don't understand why you're beating this dead horse.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

BTW, I took down an anonymous post that contained only a personal smear against AM with no added information or argument. Y'all play nice or play somewhere else. If you want to criticize someone, say why, don't just impugn people or call them names.

Thx. The Management.

Anonymous said...

Okay.

Anonymous said...

Grits @8:09: No, but he implied it strongly when he said he and Parker were "considered bad guys" for reporting mistreatment. I find it distracting. Anthony was fired only because he had a felony, and it should not have happened. He's a smart guy who was good at his job. Many other TYC employees were similarly wronged, and TYC suffers because of this action.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, felony charges are like a river flowing full of water. It just keeps on coming.

There are only 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

Anonymous said...

Life is sweet, we now have CO staff reading these blogs closer than I had thought ;> ;> ;>

Anonymous said...

8:50,

Are they the TYC CO or the TDCJ CO? Do the TDCJ people have any idea what the TYC people think of them?

Anonymous said...

I cannot, nor will I judge anyone until I have had the opportunity to work with them (TDCJ/TYC).The bottom line is we need to focus on the youth at TYC and let everything else take care of itself.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I should retort:

There are only 10 types of people in this world. Those who know ternary, those who don’t and those who confuse it with binary. ;>

Anonymous said...

Employees at WTSS also tried to report the suspicions of sexual misconduct to the superintendent. He was out on medical leave and used it as an excuse to wash his hands of it and then tell us that if we had no proof, we needed to keep quiet unless we could prove it! That statement still makes me ill. Short of catching them in the act and taking pictures, I can't fathom how we were supposed to prove it to him!!

Our anger should be directed toward those that have caused the crisis in our agency. Not at each other. The blame, as so many have said, falls on the governor, the legislators and the corrupt leaders we had.

The current leadership should have the integrity to admit they are not qualified in juvenile corrections and step down!! We should be seeking the best and most qualified to fill their positions. We are not all wrong about them and it seems we are in the majority!! Direct your anger where it needs to go, at the elected officals who appointed the current leadership instead of posting the jobs and finding qualified experts!

Simply said...

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:46:

English translation, folks for whom everything is either black or white.

Anon 9:53:

English translation, folks that understand that there are shades of gray, people that do not and people that confuse their point of view with shades of gray.

Did I get it right?

As for TYC, I will be deeply disappointed if some good does not come from the meeting this week.

Anonymous said...

6:45 and 9:41 are smoking crack. they are stupid.

Anonymous said...

10:11 if so, clearly not TYC employees... as cheap and available as it is, it is still beyond the income of TYC staff... now, TDCJjr staff....

outlawsprincess said...

Sorry, this has nothing to do with the subject. Scott, have you heard anything on the meting of the BPP???? I looked for your email address, but, couldn't find it.

Anonymous said...

1:44 sorry about the delay in picking up your thought.. I think the issue may be worse; it may be that TDCJjr doesn't even recognize there IS A DIFFERENCE between civil and criminal or, that civil commitment was just a cheap way out for the say thing. What the general population may not know is that there is no requirement for that child/family court judge to be an attorney. In most places it can be the county judge (probate court, if I understand correctly is another civil court action); it CAN be moved up to district court under certain circumstances, but these circumstances may require the student or his parents ask for it, something not as likely to happen with undereducated families (and the court appointed attorney may find little motivation to recommend it)

Anonymous said...

I assume many of you have stopped going back to previous strings since there have been no changes in them. I suggest you take alook at "TYC In News" from Aug 15 and drill past the back and forth rhetoric (when I checked the comments were up to 106)...seems law enforcement is investigating allegations of abuse, exploitation and neglect at McFadden. Oh goody, maybe in time for the Hearing.

Anonymous said...

final comment before much delayed bedtime: I doubt the legislature will do anything, at least until the sunset review next session. By then TYC may belong to the DoJ and/or the federal courts... perhaps not a bad deal now that Gonzales is gone. If so, the gazillion dollars it will cost taxpayers to get out of the situation, like it did with Morales, could be the ticket of riding Whitmire, Hinojosa, Madden etc out on a rail. A friend at WTSS suggested adding Uresti (Senator supposedly representing that area until he became a law partner of Hinojosa)... I can hear Whitmires campaign now: I cut TYC's budget to keep taxes low until it cost you twice as much. Elect me now so I can do it again with TDCJ.

Anonymous said...

ouchie!http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5087975.html

Anonymous said...

10:04 Very well said. As a TYC teacher worried about my future, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Let's take care of the kids first! True, they are not angels, but each has a spark of goodness somewhere inside. If I can fan that spark to a full-fledged flame for just one TYC youth, I will consider myself blessed to have worked in this institution.

Anonymous said...

I don't know AM, but I do know the former Supt. of Marlin. He was famous for hiring goons and then covering for them. He did not like folks that questioned the tactics of his goons. If it weren't for the integrity of Dottie, nothing would have been reported. All investigators were prejudiced against his staff - including the Texas Rangers. I could not believe that he could have been so stupid to try to buffalo them! If AM had to work under him, I can't say I blame him for feeling that folks were out to get him for reporting abuse.