Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Youth Commission Roundup

Lots of action today on the TYC front:

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?
Add your own questions in the comments. Maybe some of them will get asked.

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:

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Looks like the fecal matter has struck the oscillating blades. Da Pope has read the handwriting on the wall and is grabbibg at straws.

rage said...

As bad as Pope's misspending was, it's a small fraction of the money problem for TYC. Hopefully they will prosecute her for what she did to circumvent legislative mandates on spending, but I think the larger picture here is more important. Let's get the kids the funding they need, and if that means pay raises for TYC staff then I hope that goes through first.

The house cleaning has started in earnest. Let's move beyond retribution until the kids are taken care of, then deal with it later.

Anonymous said...

It's my understanding that Nedelkoff's contractors are donating their time. TYC will only pay travel and related expenses. I don't see the problem with tapping into a group of highly respected and well known consultants. Grits, why your indignant attitude toward this, yet your support for the Blue Ribbon Panel. Maybe some of these folks are one in the same...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Grits, why your indignant attitude toward this"

You need to re-read the post. I said I thought the criticisms were a "cheap shot."

Anonymous said...

ahhhh. my apologies...

Anonymous said...

I'm having a very hard time understanding Sen Whitmire's priorities this past year... and these comments only add to my confusion. Disappointing, esp from someone with a "D" next to his name.

He should be eagerly embracing Nedelkoff, IMO, as the best bulwark against this lawsuit widening... which it could easily do.

Someone on the last TYC thread asked my opinion about potential problems associated with moving to smaller, regionally based facilities, as Nedelkoff has suggested he wants to do.

First, I'd immediately point out that this has never actually been tried in Texas to any meaningful extent... although there was a brief move in that direction in between Morales and the get tough shift of the 90s. So we don't have a whole lot of empirical evidence in Texas about how well it would work.

Second, there are concerns about kids in West Texas still being forced to move hundreds of miles from home to facilities located in central and east TX. But this doesn't have to be the case.

Third, there are concerns that kids will be too close to the bad environments and families that caused the behavior in the first place. This same concern was expressed by juvenile justice officials in TX around the time TYC was founded in 1949.

NAtional experts who advised the TX lege at the time argued that involving the family and community was crucial to achieving long lasting, genuine rehabilitation. That TYC would have to widen its scope of activity. That, as Grits himself has said here many times, most of the kids were going to be sent home eventually no matter where you put them.

Originally, TYC did move in this direction, but it proved to be short lived. Within its first decade of existence in the 1950s, TYC became little more than a warehouse agency presiding over a growing complex of large institutions... exactly what it was created to repudiate.

A related concern expressed here, based in part it seems on Evins experience, is that regionally located facilities could expose staff to retaliation from gangs. This historically is a new wrinkle and I'm not sure how to respond, honestly. I've got to think there is some way to address it without abandoning the idea altogether.

I hope Nedelkoff really is what he seems, and that he is able to move things in a better direction this year. In a way, it's good to see some of the forces arrayed against him expose themselves this clumsily. It seems to me that this is an opportunity for staff to make their views known, although I don't know if they still face the same risks of retaliation as in the past year.

Bill B.

Anonymous said...

Reference the AAS article concerning Nedelkoff contracting with his cronies to "evaluate different aspects of TYC's operations."

Business as usual in Texas State Agencies.

If I may make a suggestion to Richard: Contract with at least one " Juvenile Justice Expert" from the "show me" state. Their programs concerning a small population of youthful offenders has been touted as a blueprint for solving Texas' problem. Good Luck!

BTW; today at noon the S/C on Criminal Justice is meeting concerning TYC Funding. I am cautiously optimistic something may happen that may or may not impact on the TYC operation (I can always hope).

Retired 2004

rage said...

He should be eagerly embracing Nedelkoff, IMO, as the best bulwark against this lawsuit widening... which it could easily do.

Nedelkoff is going outside Whitmire's ring of usual suspects, and essentially leaving Whitmire out in the cold.

No way in Hell Whitmire would ever agree with anything he does, no matter how good it is for the program in the end.

Anonymous said...

CO- who went with DA POPE to defend her?

Also who else is leaving this week?

Anonymous said...

Boy that is rich. Whitmire worries about the new conservator but yet he has had a lot of conflict of interest in his relationship with Demitria. I think he is trying to muddy the waters becuase he is not in loop anymore.

Anonymous said...

If you're able to listen to the live feed, please let us know what's happening. I can't run that link on my computer.

Anonymous said...

Nedelkoff has the support of most if not all TYC employees because it was refreshing to receive communication from him in the field. He introduced himself and told us what he planned to do and in what direction he wanted to take the agency. He mentioned surrounding himself with juvenile justice experts and you could hear the collective sigh of relief and joy from employees throughout TYC.

Retaliation still exsists in the facilities by superintendents, some assistants and the PA's. I've yet to understand the role of Program Administrators other than they are henchmen for the superintendents. Their treatment of staff is deplorable. You can't ever find them when needed.

At our facility we have lost many, many qualified people because they got tired of Ms. Pope's management of the agency. Literally, there is no direction, no treatment programs, no respect for the field staff,a lot of favoritism and no concern for rehabilitating youth. It's an agency spirally out of control.

She's promoted many unqualified people to positions of authority which has mulitiplied the exsisting problems a 100 times over.

Our CO HR department is lacking employees with knowledge of TYC policy and laws. Consequently, the field HR departments are poorly mananged. Everyone is afraid to make a move and get axed by the d'Pope. I witnessed her rath personally when she swooped in to fire a superintendent and assistant. She flew in the back door with her entourage and the rest is history. Which brings me to ask, did they ever find out who called in the bomb threat, or is this another instance of sweeping dirt under the rug until someone shakes it out and another scandal is born!!

If I had any sense, I would have resigned months ago, but hope, coworkers and the youth have kept me from doing so.

Ms. Pope, the only thing I can say to you is that you should admit you are in over your head. That's why you never understood how to run the agency and what it needed. Instead of surrounding yourself with juvenile justice experts and advice, you chose to hire unqualifed people who led you down the wrong path. It takes a lot to admit a mistake but for gosh sakes, you have no following, no respect and no support from employees because you stepped all over from the onset. It's time to bow out gracefully and pursue other avenues. Respect must be earned and not demanded. We have watched you lie to the lege, lie to employees and youth, and everything has been about you. I can't stand tall with you. Ethics & integrity must be a vital part of the agency for it to survive and that hasn't been the case. Many lives have been changed by your actions, some for the good but most for the worse. The curtain has fallen and the fat lady is singing. Time to turn off the lights and go home.

Anonymous said...

THE 7:27 a.m comment is oh so true. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I AM A VETERAN STAFF OF MORE THAN 10 YRS. AND I AM ABOUT TO GIVE UP TYC FOR A DIFFERENT LINE OF WORK I LOVE MY JOB AND I LOVE WORKING WITH THE YOUTH THE YOUTH ARE NOT THE PROBLEM THE PEOPLE RUNNING THE UNIT IS THE PROBLEM ESPECIALLY WHEN STAFF ARE NOT ALLOWED TO HOLD YOUTH ACCOUNTABLE, CONFRONT OR CORRECT BEHAVIOR WITHOUT BEING PLACED ON PICKET RESTRICTION OR SOME KIND OF DESCIPLINARY ACTIONS WITHOUT PROPER INVESTIGATIONS THE MART FACILITY NEED AN OVER HAUL IN MANAGEMENT IT IS A VERY POOR MANAGED FACILITY AGAIN THAT GOES BACK TO INEXPERIENCE AND UNDER QUALIFIED PEOPLE BEING PLACED IN CHARGE BY DPOPE ON FRIENDSHIP OR MERE AQUAINTANCES HELP BEFORE WE LOSE ALL THE GOOD AND VETERAN STAFF THAT IS THE REASON MART CAN'T KEEP ANY STAFF POORLY MANAGED AND STAFF ARE NOT RESPECTED TO NO DEGREE FROM PS TO SUPERINTENDENT THEY ARE VERY DISRESPECTFUL TOWARDS STAFF STAFF MORAL IS DOWN AT THE ENTIRE FACILITY AGAIN SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP US OUT BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE

Anonymous said...

Perhaps our elected officials should be made to quit their day jobs! They should be made to devote their full attention and time to managing Texas.

I don't think they should be paid for being elected to public office if they have a private business, law practice or whatever. It's a conflict of interest and why should tax payers pay them for the little time they actually devote to the taxpayers and affairs of the state.

Anonymous said...

The State doesn't pay them adequately for their in session hours vs their "day jobs". My question is: Why would they want to be politicians if the pay is so low?

Actually I have had my question answered on numerous occasions by their actions or lack of action. If you or I had to live on what the State pays them we would qualify for food stamps. They are doing O.K. without them. Reciprocity, it seems not only works during employee-employer negotiations; it works very well for politicians too!

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

I am a social worker who has spent my whole adult life working for children and families, trying to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. I was married to Richard Nedelkoff for 16 years specifically because I saw in him the passion to help people all his life. He didn't take the easy way out and become an attorney when he could have. He has dedicated his life to helping youth and families and has made a huge impact in many different states. I have two wonderful children who have had to move all over the country, give up friends, deal with new schools, and start over because of their father's commitment to helping youth. We are not rich and have struggled our whole lives but we both feel we have made a difference. Though we are no longer married I still have great respect for Richard and know him to be a honest and forthright leader who cares about his staff and the kids. Please don't get caught up in the political circus and ruin a good man's reputation. Please remember his 16 year old daughter who still feels she can make a difference in the world and his 12 year old son are reading the newspaper. Please don't get sucked in to the politicians web of destruction Change is difficult, but if you ask the staff of TYC they all believe that change needs to happen at the dysfunctional agency. Please be careful in biting off your nose to spite your face. Richard is already making important changes at TYC. Please do not ruin a good man's reputation and destroy two children just for the sake of a story. Please make sure you have ALL your facts straight.

sincerely,

Kristen Nedelkoff

Anonymous said...

Kristen you need to go to the latest TYC blog here. I reposted your comment there and they are giving you a good deal of support there.

http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2008/02/acting-ed-dimitria-pope-one-push-away.html

Anonymous said...

They need to dig more into CO's purchasing policy. I have heard that Lisa Maldando issued a directive to all purchasers to just issue the orders to a HUB business because she promised the Legislators she would raise the number of HUB businesses that got state business. This has got to be against the law!