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.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.
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.
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.