Appropriations Hearing Reviews TYC Spending
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal Justice today at noon will hold a hearing to examine "implementation" of appropriations to the Texas Youth Commission. (Go here to watch the video live online at noon.) I've not spoken to anybody at the Lege about this, so I'm unsure what is the hearing's focus. It could well be in reaction to news that acting Executive Director Dimitria Pope spent unauthorized funds to refurbish her office, but there are quite a few other funding issues that deserve oversight. For example:
- Will it be possible for TYC to fill budgeted staff positions at current pay scales before the end of the fiscal year?
- TYC spent its two year budget for overtime in the first two months of the fiscal year, and is currently spending money budgeted for new staff to pay for ongoing overtime. At what point during the biennium will that money run out?
- TYC's current appropriation assumed the closure of some units. Which units currently in operation will close in 2008?
- How much money has been spent defending litigation against the agency by terminated employees, Advocacy Inc. over pepper spray, and other litigation initiated since the legislative session ended? Has the agency budgeted enough money for those expenses?
- Does the agency still intend to move 10-13 year olds to contract care, and if so when will that occur?
- How many contracts have been let by the agency since the end of the legislative session without competitive bidding - somebody needs to compile that list and vet it for insider deals like the Gregg Phillips fiasco.
- Abused youth identified at TYC last spring as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder were only given counseling through the end of the fiscal year, then it was cut off at the end of August. Was that because no money was budgeted?
- TYC is about to sign onto an agreed order with the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division that will require remediation of many areas of its operations. What are the portions of that agreement that will require TYC to spend funds not currently budgeted?
Weird Media Hit on New Conservator
Dimitria Pope's chief legislative champion took a shot across the new conservator's bow this morning in the Austin Statesman, where Mike Ward has an odd little story accusing the new conservator of dealing consulting contracts to friends. Reported Ward:
State Sen. John Whitmire — who is Criminal Justice Committee chairman and heads a special legislative committee with Madden overseeing TYC reforms — said the Florida consultants "raise serious concerns." Whitmire, D-Houston, said, "It looks like (Nedelkoff is) bringing in people who use his business."My question: Where was Sen. Whitmire's indignation when Ms. Pope hired Gregg Phillips for a sweetheart consulting deal, or brought in a bunch of unqualified cronies from the adult prison system to replace managers who'd spent years at the agency?
Nedelkoff has already said his company will not be bidding on any contracts in Texas, so what does it matter if he brings in "people who use his business"? Seems like a bit of a cheap shot, to me.
More TYC-Related Headlines
While we're at it, here are a few more TYC related headlines that may interest Grits readers: