Friday, February 13, 2009

False positives plague drug tests by Bexar probation

Not every actual innocence case involves murders, rapes, or other heinous crimes. In San Antonio, between 2/3 and 3/4 of positive urine tests from the Bexar probation department resulted in false accusations of drug use, Greg Harman at the SA Current reports ("Urine trouble," Feb. 12). Even so, but the department still doesn't offer routine confirmation when probationers test positive:
Almost immediately after closing their in-house drug lab, Bexar Probation began receiving startlingly high numbers of positive drug results from its chosen cup sniffer, Treatment Associates. Suspicions were raised.

Since the original contract between the County and TA provided for free confirmation testing via the industry’s leading technology — gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, or simply GC-MS — some of those early positives were apparently shipped for confirmation.

Of 26 “positive” drug tests performed by TA that were shipped off for confirmation by GC-MS operator Norchem Drug Testing during the first four months of TA’s contract, only eight came back actually tainted by opiates, cocaine, or methamphetamine, according to newly released documents.

Some of these confirmation requests contained several classes of drugs. In one case, a probationer was accused of having opiates, methamphetamine, and THC in their system at the same time. After running the same pee through GC-MS, all three triple-strikes were cleared by GC-MS. This happened three times in a row to the same probationer.

Considered by drug class, the cases secured by San Antonio Attorney David Van Os as part of the discovery period of one of his lawsuits naming Bexar Probation and Chief Probation Officer Fitzgerald represent a total of 39 alleged positive claims of drug use. When checked against GC-MS, however, only 10 of those cases — one in four — came back positive.

An amended contact between the County and TA in July of last year added a $25 fee for GC-MS confirmation, but according to current and former case managers, these confirmation tests were rarely used by the department after privatization, and were quickly done away with altogether.
I'd be willing to bet these data partially explain why Bexar County's probation revocation numbers are so high compared to the rest of the state - they're routinely relying on false accusations of drug use by probationers without doublechecking to make sure the results are accurate. Judges in Bexar know full well about this situation so one can only assume they support probation director Bill Fitzgerald's decision to revoke probationers based on faulty drug tests.

Bexar apparently is refusing to perform routine confirmations because it doesn't want to pay the $25 per test to do the job right, but that's probably a penny-wise, pound foolish decision. Austin attorney and former Democratic Attorney General candidate David Van Os has sued the agency to correct the policy, and if he prevails it will be a lot more costly for the agency than if they'd just done the job right in the first place.

41 comments:

x4livin said...

Mr Henson, how would I go about emailing you an article that was in yesterdays Bowie News. It doesn't show up in the online edition and it's about the Montague county jail situation. The writer is a journalist who worked for Mr Bittlinger at one time, and was also married to a half owner in two papers and had written for them both. I don';t see a link on here so far..Gina

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Send it to shenson@austin.rr.com.

Anonymous said...

Grits: Being the Director of a rather large CSCD in Texas, being penny wise and pound foolish is exactly that! Contracts for confirmations of urinalysis results are a must as at times in house drug tests using either the strip tests, cup tests or a departments own urinalysis lab are incorrect and if used to present as evidence in Court, they MUST be confirmed in order to present true evidence to the Court to show positive use of drugs.

By not using this method, other departments in the State will simply cause undue harm and hardships on those of us who are in fact using correct procedures for Intermediate Sanctioning methods when using urinalysis results. Indicating that a probationer is in fact using drugs, when they are not, through a false positive urinalysis test yields harmful results in the trust a probationer has for the officer and the system as a whole!

Our function is to supervise defendants and to provide the Court with true and verifiable information and to provide a defendant with the ability to conform his conduct to the norm regardless of cost issues!

Henderson said...

Hmm. Lets see. My county passes the cost of the confirmation on to the offender. We have our UAs confirmed at the same plce when buy the cups from, so its $6.00 for each confirmation. We stress admittances, and if they dont sign, we stress the payment of the $25.00 fee. If they dont pay, we eat it. What is $6.00 in the grand scheme of things, especially if it keeps my department off Grits.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the status of the multiple lawsuits filed against the toe-sucking, retaliating, false-imprisoning director of Bexar Co CSCD?

Anonymous said...

As a former Chief Probation Officer, absent an admission, we never went to court on a dirty urine screen without the benefit of a confirmation. Bill Fitzgerald's policies are criminal.

Thomas Hobbes said...

There are at least two lessons Bexar County oficials need to learn:

1. Keep your relationships with your vendors as direct as possible. It is usually more cost-effective to deal directly with the confirming lab than it is to pass the specimens through a third-party. The $25 per confirmation test that Bexar County pays to an interested third party is anywhere from two to three times what others pay directly to an accredited testing laboratory for the same service.

2. Don't comingle services. There is a potential for conflicts of interest when a lone drug testing vendor has a financial stake in both the screening and confirmation testing results. The results from the individual vendors offer perhaps the best opportunity for officials to properly evaluate the services provided.

Leviathan

Don said...

This is one reason why I retired from CD counseling. I worked in a consortium and did outpatient counseling for 4 counties. None of them did confirmations routinely, and when they did it wasn't GC/MS. It was just another screen, using the same technology as the first one. Not really a confirmation, but the testing company called it that, and was much cheaper. I started suggesting to clients that had the money to go get another test, and pay for it. Made ALL the chiefs mad. Two of them tried to get me fired for working "against" them. I hate to think how many of these rural probation departments use these bogus false positives to sanction their probationers. They don't see anything wrong with it because they are "probably" using. I worked in and around probation departments for 20 years. Some do their job; many are unethical.

Anonymous said...

Get this...... Treatment Associates the lab that bexar County uses also does treatment for the probation department? Conflict or what?

Dont u just love that! Bet you did not know that one Grits?

Anonymous said...

GRITS, If he (chief fitzgerald) had done it right in the first place, he would have listened to the committee that asked these same questions about Treatment Associates before he (chief fitzgerald) picked this sorry excuse for a lab!
However, the lab is only the tip of the LEGAL LIABILITY this SORRY EXCUSE of a leader has wrought on the HONORABLE Bexar County CSCD employees, citizens and probationers. I for one will hold the Judges of Bexar County accountable when the numerous lawsuits against the department because of fitzgerald are settled and we the taxpayers get the proverbial screwing!
I hear there are more lawsuits against the chief in the works. The Judges are next in line.......Don't try to hide behind HB1326

Anonymous said...

I have heard a recent PROMOTION to manager, had something to do with the FRIENDSHIP of that person and the owner of TREATMENT ASSOCIATES? Makes you wonder about the ethical issues that departments' chief has. Also a pay raise of $12,000 to his HR person for keeping quiet in depositions.
08:55 I'm sure you've heard about Fitzgerald, he's the laughing stock of the state. He will cost that county and the state hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time all his cases are heard and dealt with. It amazes me that those judges have done nothing. What are they waiting for?
He doesn't care about his wife, employees, probationers, or the citizens of Bexar County. He's a complete disgrace to the corrections workers.

Anonymous said...

Bexar County used to have an in-house lab. They did confirmations. So what's up with this guy and his "new" friend at TA? Is there something being passed under the table?
QUE PASA FITZGERALD?

Anonymous said...

WHAT???????? Who's this loser from Arizona?????
2 out of 3 ain't bad!
City Manager and Fire Chief are from Arizona and doing BANG UP jobs!
Probation chief doing bang up but not with job performance! Ask around and see how mad those employees are with him. I have and am watching this with interest from cityside.

Anonymous said...

I hear he came out of his office and saw his shadow, got scared. It appears he will hide in his office for six more weeks.

Anonymous said...

LOSER!

Anonymous said...

Good call on the revocation rates up from false ua results makes sense. I feel this is criminal on Chief Fitzgerald's part. He knew the results were problematic and then ordered a hault to confirmations. Almost looks as though he tried to cover up by stopping confirmations. This needs to be dealt with at higher level. I think Whitmire needs to call for an investigation in Bexar. Madden and Whitmire got all the other counties moving in the right direction but look at Bexar? So far all I have seen is the Bexar Probation Officers screaming and crying foul. Where is the oversight on this agency? If the judges are not moving. Then Whitmire and Madden/McReynolds need to get on this from the funding perspective. Im sorry for the lack of a better term Fitzgerald just seems stupid or corrupt? Someone better get on this or the state will hear this great sucking sound of money going to this Austin Lawyer Van Os.

Anonymous said...

Good call on the revocation rates up from false ua results makes sense. I feel this is criminal on Chief Fitzgerald's part. He knew the results were problematic and then ordered a hault to confirmations. Almost looks as though he tried to cover up by stopping confirmations. This needs to be dealt with at higher level. I think Whitmire needs to call for an investigation in Bexar. Madden and Whitmire got all the other counties moving in the right direction but look at Bexar? So far all I have seen is the Bexar Probation Officers screaming and crying foul. Where is the oversight on this agency? If the judges are not moving. Then Whitmire and Madden/McReynolds need to get on this from the funding perspective. Im sorry for the lack of a better term Fitzgerald just seems stupid or corrupt? Someone better get on this or the state will hear this great sucking sound of money going to this Austin Lawyer Van Os.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Henderson wrote, "What is $6.00 in the grand scheme of things, especially if it keeps my department off Grits."

Now you're just trying to flatter me!! :-)

Anonymous said...

To the D.C.& C.C. Judges will you continue to lie to the Probation Officers and keep Fitzgerald on the payroll. Treatment Associates has been nothing, but an entire SCREW UP!! Finally, the truth comes out about the Adult Probation Dept. only having a couple of confirmations, when there were HUNDREDS of POSITIVES. Why was it such a secret? The Administration had every chance to come clean. Don't you just love it! The longer the Judges keep Fitzgerald around the stupider they look, not to mention all the money it is costing the taxpayers. To Bill, kline and the Administration you have all sold yourselves to the DEVIL. Was it really worth the twenty five dollars not to confirm and keep YOUR lies ONGOING. And the SOAP OPERA continues. Remember you have the keep the LIES going, wouldn't want you to break your RECORD. P.S. Scott Kathy talks about you all the time.

Anonymous said...

This leads me to wonder about the integrity of the Bexar Co. justice system as a whole. If judges know this and are allowing it to continue, what else are they doing? I hope Van O's bankrupts them all.

Anonymous said...

Grits,

1132 post is right. Kathy Cline (who replaced Paul K. by sneak attack) talks about you all the time. I think you are making them nervous! Wonder why they are nervous.

If you did nothing wrong then there would be nothing to worry about. Remember all, she is a lawyer!!!ooooo aw

Ps, Kathy Cline when you read this and we all know you will....you shoved Paul K. out the door but he could do the job and you can't.


All those defendants who went to jail that were innocent should know you Cline did know better!

Anonymous said...

Grits just read the link to "urine trouble". What kind of open records release is that with all the words marked out in black? Why waste the time and paper. What the heck is this department hiding??

This is FISHY?!!

Anonymous said...

Please, Bexar County PO's, at least attempt to use proper grammar and spelling. Too many of you sound so ignorant that your valid arguments are lost in the fog.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, last post. Most are on cell phones with small print and small keyboards. It's very hard to check your work on the cell! Thank You Grammar Nazi.

Anonymous said...

Two posts ago,

I feel the officer's arguments have been ignored and they need to vent. The spelling and grammar comment is petty. I could not imagine having to send reports to court that were false.

There is no reason the boss at this probation department should still be in charge. I feel he should be punished.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a bunch of people (too many) are in on the coverup for this to remain a conspiracy. Sooner or later, someone will sing (if it is true). At times when I read about the Bexar Chief, I wonder if the employees don't like their boss and his managers and they want to run the assylum.

LMB

Anonymous said...

Seems like a bunch of people (too man) are in on the coverup) for this to remain a conspiracy. Sooner or later, someone will sing (if it is true). At times when I read about the Bexar Chief, I wonder if the employees don't like their boss and his managers and they want to run the assylum.

LMB

Anonymous said...

The plastic wrapper containing the pee-cup should not be opened until the subject enters the restroom under the supervision of the person administering the drug test, and THEN the subject should sign a document stating that he is the one who opened the package. The person administering the drug test should then seal the sample in front of the subject being tested, and safegaurds should be put in place so that if the sample is opened prior to lab analysis, it can be detected and the sample thrown out.

Anonymous said...

LMB:

It s not a matter of how we feel about our sorry excuse for a leader. It is about doing a good job for the County Of Bexar and the community (something that Fitz does not know about nor care about because he is not from here to begin with). I repsect the Judge I work for and I for one dont want to give her bad info based of TAs crap. I have heard many things of goings on in that lab such as: 1) lab techs selling urine; 2) lab tech requesting sex from female clients in exchange for clean samples; 3) lab techs offering to sell drugs to clients (note: this is just hearsay but I suspect it is happing). Now you tell me, if that is the case no wonder our revocation rate is freaking out of sight. How is it even possible that we expect change from our offenders when this crap is going on. and lastly I also say follow the money and maybe that is why they dont want to change labs or terminate this contract. Smells fishy hu!

Anonymous said...

LMB,

Have no fear. We do not want to run the place. We just want fair rules and to work in a clean building.

To fix this department is far to big a task for the employees.

Anonymous said...

Judges will pay the price for the worthless little man(?) they hired to RUIN the Bexar County CSCD. Pardon me, I meant RUN, however, I think he thought they meant RUIN!!!!!!!!!!
They will lose come next election.....

Anonymous said...

LMB, No the few of us who are watching him tear down the department do not like this man. He goes around telling Judge's all these sweet lies. Making Ms. Simonelli seem to be a loose cannon. Telling administrators and managers she doesn't like them. Once you get to know her you see she is Just. Let's see. His officers the backbone of the department get a meager compensation. Pats himself on the back and accepts a substantial raise. At Judges' recommendation. Officers get another meager compensation. Judges' again try to reward him with a slip under the door raise. Until one of their own told us about that raise, and he graciosly declined it. Don't worry he has made it up by uping the department legal fees. Guess who that benefits. He makes the backbone of the department and all other personnel reapply!!!!for their job. He has the audacity to say some officers were glad to do it!! What does that tell you. Then he tried to say it was just a way to get to know his officers. Every person with common sense who recieved that notice KNEW EXACTLY WHAT IT MEANT. The recent UA debacle happened because he was trying to make key administrators, and personally admitted very good friend happy. Then he fires a exemplary employee for speaking out. Who was discrediting Sheri Simonelli to ADA Adriana. The same personally admitted good friend to TA. Judge Kazen remember your foolish words that we are petty. In due time we shall see who was truly being petty. So LMB. No we don't like this man and with very good reason.

Oh there is also the terrible audit, the sexual harrassment suit, the death the at a faciltiy, etc., etc.,

Anonymous said...

Looks like Ms. Boor gave her bestest friend Ms. Lazo a promotion to manager. I guess Fitzgerald wanted another fresh set of boobs/feet to STARE at!
It only gets better from here... I wonder if KMOL -TV has the guts to air the still hidden video of a certain sex offender officer claiming to be at work for 8 hours, when she was in fact at home and/or the gym. I guess we will have to wait and see. I feel sorry for those officers and the citizens who will ultimately pay the price for diminished safety due to sex offenders running wild and no officers watching them.
Step up KMOL and air your video

Anonymous said...

When are you cry babies gonna quit griping!! When are you gonna realize that people obviously believe in other people and not you. Grow up. Go take your ball and play somewhere else. All your threats are all fine but the truth is you have nothing. Let's talk about the officers at the probation department who sexually harass others and are still employed there. From your comment I can assume you are maybe one of them. If you don't like your job, leave, no one will miss you. Trust me. If you are such a great officer and have so much time on your hands to prosecute others, maybe you should work in the SAFE Unit. Or have you/do you currently? HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

Anonymous said...

8:01 Blogger. A court of law will be deciding what truth is valid. And unlike petulant children on a playground, we are adults and expected to be held to a higher standard. It is not okay to be pushing people around and minimizing that behavior. Ms. Boor's integrity is under fire and she knows. Quite possibly already setting herself up to be the hero in the UA by singing with all that information she was sitting on. The real question will be when did she decide to go forward? So 8:01 Blogger you be gone. You won't be missed either.

Anonymous said...

I am currently on deferred probation in Dallas county. I am in one of the drug courts, so I see my PO about once a week. I've worked really hard at turning my life around, and reading this makes me nauseous. I trust that my PO has my best interest at heart... and if all I've worked for could be ripped away from me because of a false positive UA, I honestly can't imagine how deflated and hopeless I would feel. This makes me sick.

Anonymous said...

Bexar County CSCD employs some of the best line officers and managers in the state; however, there are a few whiners in the mix, but just a few. I guess no matter where one works, there's always few that just seem totally unhappy, no matter how good life's been to them. No matter what my opinion is of the department I always remember that I have the option of going elsewhere and not letting the door hit me in the ass on the way out. Way to go Mrs. Lazo! The department just added another great manager.

Anonymous said...

5:22, what the hell does your post have to do with people going to jail for false positive ua's? If you can't stay on message, then stay off this blogsite.

H said...

5:22, what are you and all these great officers doing to stop these false positive UAs? That's fantastic you appreciate your job-- I appreciate mine, too. Of course, if my probation was revoked for a false positive UA, I would lose my job. And probably my family, my boyfriend, and my apartment. How do you sleep at night?

Anonymous said...

Dear 2/20/09 @ 11:21am.

Everyone is entitled to due process under the law and no one should ever be incarcerated for a false positive. Unfortunately a line officer's hands are tied in regards to what lab the department contracts with. It is really up to their administration to address that issue.

Anonymous said...

I've read a lot of negative comments about Bill Fitzgerald and ultimately he is to blame for the downfall of the department; but, Kathy Cline is the brain behind the mess. Every decision that has been made in recent years was made by her. Bill just has no backbone and will go along with what is told to him. Kathy is a strong, outspoken woman and she uses those assets to run the department the way she sees fit. Obviously, a lawyer does not make the best chief.