Apparently, Whitmire said, Pope misled the Legislature last year when she told them TYC was making good progress, telling him behind the scenes things were worse than ever:
"I don't know who's on first base, and I'm not sure Nedelkoff knows what inning we're in," Mr. Whitmire said. "I don't have confidence that he knows what's going on."
Mr. Whitmire co-chairs the special joint legislative committee on TYC, which convenes Friday in Austin. He and other legislators say they will direct Mr. Nedelkoff – who in December became the agency's third conservator in nine months – to bring some desperately needed calm and purpose to the agency.
"It's awful," Mr. Whitmire said. "We need stability."
But inexplicably, the Senator is not angry at Ms. Pope for concealing these problems in her testimony before his committee on numerous occasions, but at the new conservator for recognizing she was covering up a big mess and getting rid of her. How much sense does that make?
Ms. Pope, who spent eight months as acting executive director, did not reply to several requests for comment. In December, she declared that TYC's progress toward reform was excellent. Behind the scenes, however, a different conversation was occurring.
"Ms. Pope's gone, but the problems still exist," Mr. Whitmire said last week. "She told me last month that things are a lot worse at TYC than anyone knows."
Meanwhile, new concerns revealed at recent visits by the Ombudsman and Harris County's TYC liaison to the McFadden Ranch halfway house in Denton typify a slew of unresolved difficulties facing the new conservator:
You can't say Pope or the Committee didn't know about McFadden Ranch's woes. Sen. Whitmire's joint committee was told about medical-related abuses there last August, and Ms. Pope told them she would immediately follow up. But here we are. (The comment string on the post about that committee's McFadden Ranch discussion is the longest ever in Grits' history - currently at 676 comments - including many other first-hand problematic allegations.)
Privately, senior TYC officials talk now of "hitting the reset button" on the agency for another rebuilding effort in many crucial areas. Among them: replacing failed therapy programs, finding qualified correctional officers to hire and maintaining order at isolated and outmoded youth prisons.
Recent reports by two independent inspectors found some of the old problems persisting. The reports, by TYC's independent ombudsman and Harris County's TYC liaison, were released to The Dallas Morning News by the ombudsman after a request under the Texas Public Information Act.
Both sets of findings were issued after unannounced visits to TYC's McFadden Ranch halfway house at Roanoke in Denton County. They detail repeated instances of failure to provide timely medical treatment to sick or injured youths.
One boy reported waiting weeks to see a doctor for a torn tendon in his wrist. Others complained of long delays in treatment for serious cuts, broken bones and breathing problems.
Several said they had not complained about medical treatment before because they were afraid of retaliation by staff.
The grievance procedures – by which youths file complaints – received strong criticism in the reports. Juveniles at McFadden "have consistently reported that they do not file grievances because it only makes their situation worse," the Harris County liaison wrote. "Youth report they are often singled out and ... the staff the grievance was filed against becomes angry and ridicules the youth by calling them 'snitch.' "
Sen. Whitmire may well put the conservator through the ringer on Friday, but it won't matter. The deed is done. Hopefully other committee members will prefer to look toward the future.
One final note, apparently you really could tell who were the Grits readers at TYC after Dimitria Pope's firing. Swanson lede declares:
After Dimitria Pope's forced resignation from the Texas Youth Commission last week, some TYC employees began singing, "Ding-dong, the witch is dead," from The Wizard of Oz.What Doug didn't mention was that those singing had all heard the tune as a result of its posting in Grits' comments soon after her departure was announced. So guess what, guys, you made the paper!