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