Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Overtime Pay for TYC Renewed: Full 2-year OT budget spent in first 2 months, now cannibalizing vacant positions

Good news for Texas Youth Commission employees: TYC yesterday reinstated overtime for Juvenile Correctional Officers (JCOs), reported the Austin Statesman ("Youth commission resumes overtime pay for guards," Nov. 28):

Extra hours worked during the past month since overtime pay was suspended will be paid in a special check to be issued by mid-December, agency officials said in a statement.

Acting Executive Director Dimitria Pope suspended overtime payments in October after top Youth Commission officials were shocked to learn that the agency had used most of its annual overtime budget in just two months. At the time, agency officials said that they could not properly track overtime payments and that they were investigating why so many extra hours had been logged.

The move angered many employees, who questioned why Pope and other Austin officials were so surprised by the cost, considering chronic understaffing in Youth Commission lockups in many parts of the state.

In the statement, the agency attributed that large overtime bill to "the shortage of juvenile corrections officers at numerous TYC facilities. ... Another factor was the lack of a uniform staff schedule throughout the institutions."

Pope said that a uniform staffing plan will be completed by early January to ensure that all overtime worked is evenly distributed among staff and to "develop strategies to work overtime more efficiently and consistently given the realities of current staff shortages."

The cost of overtime during the period it was suspended: $1.4 million, about what it was in the previous month.

The statement said that pay for all the extra overtime will come from money budgeted for staff positions that are vacant.

Three words come to mind: Gross. Fiscal. Mismanagement. Then after that, two more: Tick, tock.

When is that new conservator and permanent commissioner coming, Governor Perry? This is really getting out of hand.

OTOH, before now TYC officials claimed they didn't have a staffing crisis, and insisted at legislative hearings that they were meeting their 12-1 youth-staff ratios without difficulty and required no expanded staffing. This crisis has put the lie to that myth, and forced TYC administrators to publicly acknowledge that understaffing lies at the root of many if not most of the agency's problems. You can't fix problems you won't admit, so maybe this new revelation (known previously to everyone but the TDCJ transplants running the Youth Commission) will lead to new policies down the line that remedy the underlying problems instead of just the cosmetic ones.

That's a grim silver lining (that and the fact that TYC employees will get their overtime checks in time for Christmas). After all, the agency's problems are quite immediate, and as John Maynard Keynes said, "In the long run, we're all dead." But in the current dysfunctional environment, one begins to thank heaven for small favors.

42 comments:

"Chuy" said...

Scott, you may want to check into the rumor that TYC has to close more facilities or basically give up 700 more beds to make the mandated numbers within the next 6 months. I have no clue who or what facilities they will close but this is reality. They are over budgeted with the youth population and must make cuts to stay within budgeted guidelines. But, if they were smart they would go before the LBB and ask for emergency appropriations to keep the beds they currently have open but that would take courage and the wisdom to know what to do, which they are lacking in both of these area's. Stay tuned and see when this occurs.

Anonymous said...

So much for merit money.

Anonymous said...

Merit money? That probably all went to TDCJrs Xmas bonuses!

Anonymous said...

7:40,

I've heard through the grapevine about an announcement about closures on Dec 1. Since that's a Saturday, I'm not sure I trust the rumor.

And since we're already over the budgeted count, where are those kids going on such short notice?

Oh, wait, I forgot! The wonderful world of contract care. But don't we have to pay for that, too?

I'm so confused.

Anonymous said...

So the closure datres have been moved to December 1. When I left, SBC was online for closure on November 30 and VFCA was online for March 31 along with WTSS. and this was in the original Legislative Budget.

So take your pick.

The geniuses are in over their heads and they have the same solution that was always intheir feeble minds -- take it over.

Anonymous said...

Using funds from vacant positions to help cover overtime is a no-brainer. TYC has always had to do that. True, it is a losing proposition because overtime costs more on an hour-per-hour basis that regular time, but what are the options until the workforce can be rebuilt? Stopping overtime payment was ridiculous. If there is a concern about overtime management, then deal with the managers - don't jerk around the staff who are keeping your agency functioning. If they worked the time, then they deserve the pay. This kind of treatment and message just makes it harder to recruit staff and therefore makes the OT situation worse.

If current TYC management is really concerned about how youth are being treated, they need to consider one reality - you cannot expect staff to consistently treat youth better then they are treated themselves by supervisors. And you cannot expect supervisors to treat staff consistently better than they are treated by agency managers. Ms. Pope - it starts with you. You need to be the agency role model.
>Don Brantley

Anonymous said...

So, the problem with so much overtime pay is that there is no uniform staffing pattern. I am confused. If the agency is very short-staffed, how is a uniform staffing pattern going to reduce overtime. Perhaps they will be able to anticipate the amount to be spent per month, but I don't see how this is going to reduce overtime. And, there is no way to anticipate people calling in sick or the number resigning that I know of. Please help me understand this.

Anonymous said...

I think Pope had a duty to report the OT problem when she last appeared before the respective legislative committees. This has got to be the most incompetent female administrator on planet Earth. If dumb hurt, she'd be in the hospital.

Anonymous said...

Did I understand that TYC does not have a Uniform Staffing Plan? How is this possible (if true)? The LBB would not allow the lack of a staffing plan. How do you justify the payroll????
Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

Grits,
How long is TYC projected to be under conservatorship anyway?

It seems as if Perry has agreed with Ed Owens' parting thought that TYC doesn't need a new conservator.

I'm astounded that the state seems so willing to leave the agency in administrative limbo endlessly.

BB

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Bill, I don't think there's a time limit that I know of, it can stay under conservatorship until the "gross fiscal mismanagement" has ended. I'm not sure the statute contemplates a situation where gross fiscal mismanagement is CAUSED by conservatorship.

Anonymous said...

You tell them Dr Brantley. glad to see you are still around to see the stupidity that has taken over

JE

Anonymous said...

The real question should be, if they close more facilities and our youth intake has not changed since last year where will they place these youth. Your setting up all the open facilities for failure by overcrowding.
Maybe this is why Pope is pushing so hard for OC, by having minimal staff numbers you have to have a way to control the overcrowding at these facilities that will be left open, how about outfitting all staff with OC, this should solve the problem!!!!!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Maybe this is why Pope is pushing so hard for OC, by having minimal staff numbers you have to have a way to control the overcrowding at these facilities that will be left open"

Bingo! I think that's 100%, absolutely accurate. That's why this is a false debate - whether and when to use pepper spray is but window dressing to the more important topic of how to staff facilities, and what happens to youth when TYC no longer can.

No one is prepared to have those discussions, so it's been easy, until now, for TYC admin to avoid them. Maybe not for much longer, though. Quien sabe? Reality may soon catch up to them.

Anonymous said...

Just a reminder, only JCO staff are being paid overtime. Though Ms. Pope verbalized that all staff who work overtime would be paid for such monthly at one of her "State of the Agency" meetings, that is not how it has played out. True to form, admin cannot be trusted to treat the staff equitably. How does a case manager with a caseload of 16, 17 or more get everything done in a 40hour week. Fiscal mismanagment, certainly. Continued incompetence, most definitely.

Anonymous said...

I hear Ms. Pope has been claiming compliance with SB103 regarding the 1:12 staffing ratio. TYC staff need to watch out for "creative statistics" in this area from the current leadership. Prior leadership interpreted the 1:12 ratio (and I think appropriately) as applying to EACH INDIVIDUAL GROUP OF YOUTH. In other words, if there were 13 youth in a living area or activity, then there should be more than one staff. That is what we based our large staffing request on last session. If you don't really care about safety and want to just say you are meeting a measure, you can always interpret 1:12 on a facility-wide basis. That way, if you have two staff with 16 youth in one location, you can argue that one staff with 16 youth in another location is just fine. Of course, you can also cheat by counting staff who are in a picket or doing security. I don't think this is what the designers of SB103 had in mind but I'm not sure Pope and company even understand the distinction. I would argue that anytime a given group of youth is staffed at less than a 1:12 ratio - meaning only one staff with more than 12 youth or only two staff with more than 24 youth, then perhaps the law is being violated. That also applies if there are two JCOs with 24 youth but one of them gets pulled to cover the infirmary or do a transport. If I were a JCO these days, I would be keeping a record of anytime I had to work under such a condition. You or someone else might need this information someday. Howard, what happens to the agency's liability if a staff gets injured and the facility was not staffed in compliance with state law??

Anonymous said...

Sorry Howard. That 12:03 post was from me.
>Don Brantley

"Chuy" said...

This information that Don referes too needs to get out to all JCO staff in the field, the majority of them are not aware of GFB. If this can be accomplished we can hold them accountable. I would also say that all youth who were sprayed with OC in violation of GAP.97.23 should file suit against TYC. This seems to be the only message our leaders understand and if the parents get involved (hopefully) we can create a better working environment for both the youth and staff.

Anonymous said...

"In the long run, we're all dead."

I agree TYC is one step closer to the grave. As TYC bleeds out the stumbling hulk will stager from one supposed quick fix to another. The grave is ready, all TYC has to do is wander over and fall in! Not to fret though Contract Care will save the day, not to mention insulating the public officials from the day to day operation of the new agency.

If you are looking for short term employment, contact TYC. The job probably won’t last long enough for your insurance to kick in though. Also TYC might not look good on your resume but then the hog farm and chicken plant don’t do the resume thing anyhow! The good news is you can draw unemployment for 6 months when TYC closes down. Don’t forget to burn off all the sick leave you can! May I suggest 30 days of stress leave to help lower the Sick Leave Balance. The ship is going down so you might as well salvage all you can. It is time to start thinking of your family and yourself, screw TYC!

Have a Happy Holiday Season

Anonymous said...

Finally

Someone speaks the truth.....

Anonymous said...

After reading all the blogs lately I can't help but wonder why Perry is turning a blind eye to the situation at TYC. We have a staffing crisis putting staff and youth at risk, overtime budget spent, but the Executive, I sorry, acting Executive Director is more concerned about uniforms, carpeting, and office arrangements? Then she says she does not read emails? TYC went into conservatorship for this? I looked at the job postings, talk about a waste of the tax payers money, a Incident Report Center Supervisor? What do they need that job for? Now it seems that TYC will have more Purchasers than JCO's? Hinojosa and Whitmire were so up in arms over the abuse of youth, why are they not screaming about pepper spray?

Anonymous said...

TYC is not going anywhere.Go work for TDCJ were you never hear from Brad.And thats a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Don,

In cases of staff injury, staff are limited to claims under the Workers' Compensation Act. There is a gross negligence exception for employers that creates unlimited damages but that provision does not apply to governmental entities.

Youth(bystanders, victims of organized youth attacks) injured as a result of lack of staff would be in a great litigation position.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

Vernon victory field and Sheffield bootcamp are closing...where have you guys been???

mp103 said...

Just a couple of thoughts to throw out:

1) In one of the most recent agency wide e-mails from our acting (though not a very good act) Executive Director, why did she copy Ed Owens, Conservator? I thought he had hung up his hat. . .

2) Echoing Scott's point . . . Gross.Fiscal.Mismanagement. Overtime for JCO staff was halted but how much are the movers making? How much was spent on boxes and boxes of boxes (to use for a day to move across the hall)?And the shuffle game in CO is to who's benefit? How does it help the youth?

3) How about that treatment program? What's been approved? Who knows about it?

And as a final comment, Don, thanks for sharing your thoughts and comments. There are a lot of us left behind who really miss your integrity. Thanks for taking care of you so that you could still look back and take care of us!

Anonymous said...

Those in Austin who sit in their ivory towers and point there fingers should understand where the money is going. At our facility we have over a million dollars in new cameras that do not work. And in our security unit I have $68,000 worth of the new radios sitting on a shelf gathering dust because they have not figured out how to make them work yet. Well done

Anonymous said...

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst should be held accountable to offer more support and guidance regarding TYC.

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, from what I understand, is all about kiddos. But maybe not TYC kids... just the good kids?

If Gov. Goodhair is not going to assist other than offering us DaPope, then maybe this would be a good time for the Lt. Gov. to shine.

I propose Lt. Gov. Dewhurst take the imitative to share his thoughts, goals and plans on how he can save TYC from itself, other than hold hands and sing Kum by ya.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of folks who miss Don Brantley, Neil Nichols, Emily Helm, Linda Reyes and Marie Murdoch (and others like them). Those were competent folks, who have integrity, and had a balanced interest in protecting society, youth and the staff who worked with the youth. I even miss old Howard. ;) Old Salty

Anonymous said...

Hindsight is 20/20. All of these so-called "People with integrity" should have stepped up to the plate LONG ago if you ask me and this agency would not be the shambles it is today.These "great" people are anything but....lets save our praise for people that actually did something to change this agency!!!

Anonymous said...

11:14
And who might they be?

Anonymous said...

Don Brantley;
I would like your thoughts please,

Does or has TYC ever had a psych treatment program where real treatment took place or has it been a hire psych's for a show on paper?

Will UTMB be able to have a better treatment program when they are given the complete Psych program from TYC?

Anonymous said...

Staffing Crisis in TYC! Problems with UTMB contract care in TYC! Problems with private prison contracts! Let us initiate actions to correct these problems.

TDCJ had these same problems for the last 15 or more years; how did they address them? How did our Government help out?

Merry Christmas!

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

WERE YOU FIRED FROM TYC DUE TO A PAST CRIMINAL RECORD?

If you would be interested in joining a class action law suit against TYC please email your contact information to firedfromtyc@swbell.net . Your information will only be used in relation to a class action law suit against TYC. The class action law suit will be on a contingency basis requiring no money from you.

Anonymous said...

It does not matter who, how, what or why the OT get's paid. The OVERWHELMING majority of it is and has always been bogus and ripe with theft. While this has been the case statewide with TYC, this is especially true here at Evins. Staff heard Eric Young speak of it years ago. Fix that first and you might have a chance of spending our tax dollars more wisely.

Anonymous said...

Good questions 6:29AM.
“Does or has TYC ever had a psych treatment program where real treatment took place or has it been a hire psych's for a show on paper?”
IMO, TYC has done an excellent job of providing mental health treatment in many cases. I have seen very ill youth make significant improvement for a variety of reasons – connection with a competent psychiatrist who found the correct diagnosis and medications, contact with psychologists, social workers and JCO staff who provided much needed counseling and support, experience with a safer and more stable living environment than they may have ever had before (keep in mind, despite TYCs many problems, for some youth it is still the most stable place they have ever lived). Has TYC always been able to provide the care some youth need for their mental illness? That is a definite NO. There have never been enough resources to meet all the youth’s need. Even when money is available, we often had problems hiring competent professionals in some locations. In some cases, the nature of the youth’s illness is just not one that can be effectively treated in a correctional setting far from their family. Sometimes it may not have been enough, but I never felt that TYC was hiring psychologists/psychiatrists “just for show.” The need was and is real and I believe the desire to meet that need from people like Dr. Reyes, Dr. Alvarez-Sanders, Ms. Logterman and many others was genuine as well.

“Will UTMB be able to have a better treatment program when they are given the complete Psych program from TYC?”
I have serious reservations about this, but not because of UTMB per se. Whether intended or not, I believe that contracting out something like this essential makes it an ancillary service. I believe that psychiatric treatment, especially for seriously disturbed children and adolescents, requires a holistic approach that includes close communication, collaboration and coordination between MH “professionals”, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. and those who spend the majority of time with the youth, the JCO staff and case managers. The observations and insight that JCOs and case managers can provide the MH professionals is invaluable to their understanding of the youth’s problems and needs. The input and suggestions the MH professionals can provide to the JCOs and case managers in managing and responding to the youth’s symptoms in the living environment is also critical. Let’s face it, with seriously disturbed youth, much of the “treatment” has to occur in their daily living environment by the JCO and case managers. 30 to 60 minute sessions every few weeks with a MH professional is just not sufficient. But JCOs and case managers who do not understand a youth’s illness can actually respond in ways that make it worse. It truly needs to be a team approach. This is difficult to develop and sustain when the chain of command for various elements (JCOs vs. Psychologists, for example) run through entirely different agencies who interface only at the point of a contract. For less disturbed youth, an “outpatient” model of contracted services may be fine. But for more seriously ill youth, such as those at Corsicana and Crockett, I think a treatment team united under effective local management is the best approach. I am not saying it cannot be done under a contract model, it will just be more difficult. Luckily, there are always some individuals who just do what is needed for the youth despite a less than conducive organizational structure. However, they tend to be the exception rather than the rule and when the organizational structure doesn’t support their efforts, they tend to move elsewhere.

Regards,
>Don Brantley

Anonymous said...

Would anyone like to compare this answer from the guy they ran off with the likely answer from the people currently in charge?

Anonymous said...

11:14 sounds like one of DaPope's shills.

Anonymous said...

Good point, 9:10! I have worked with Don, and with the folks he mentions - they all worked hard to overcome the "super corrections" folk who gave Whitmire and crew the excuses they needed to destroy TYC.

11:14 doesn't have a clue.

Old Salty

Anonymous said...

Don: regarding your 4:51 post; TDCJ uses UTMB or TxTech Health Services under contract, including psychiatrists and psychologists. Psychologists are warned in the hiring posting that if the warden says he doesn't want you at the facility, your job ends. Seems working at the pleasure of the administration is not unusual. In this case, hard to show retaliation if he/she is smart enough to just say you can't come in.

Anonymous said...

Hey 09:10:00 PM
(Would anyone like to compare this answer from the guy they ran off with the likely answer from the people currently in charge?)

Please Do Tell !!

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Dr. Brantley. There is no way that a rehabilitation program or mental health services can be effectively provided by contracted psychologists at facilities other than Corsicana and Crockett. Mart, Giddings, Evins, Al Price, Brownwood, all have a significant proportion of youth who really should placed at a residential treatment program but there are not the resources to do so. Psychologists play an essential role in working with caseworkers to try to identify creative solutions to working with troubled youth in non mental health facilities. Contracted staff cannot have the knowledge of institutional programs and policies, as well as staying abreast of quick changes in youth presentation and trend of behavior in institutional settings. If anything TYC needs to have more clinically trained treatment staff at these facilities.

Anonymous said...

9:57, I'm not sure we disagree that much. My point was that contracted psychology services will be most problematic at programs with the more seriously mentally ill youth. However, I never meant to suggest that contracted psychology services are the ideal at any TYC unit. I agree with you that fully employed, invested, and integrated psychologists are best for TYC, period.
>Don Brantley