Friday, February 23, 2007

TYC's Harris resignation was fallout from the Pyote facility sex scandal

UPDATE: More on Gov. Perry's replacement appointee.

A Texas Youth Commission press release says Executive Director Dwight Harris resigned as direct fallout from the alleged sex abuse scandal at the Pyote facility in West Texas, a story broken in the Texas Observer last week. In addition to a lengthy adumbration of Harris' career with TYC, the press release declared:

On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee delayed approval of TYC’s budget requests amid news reports of a 2005 Texas Ranger investigation at TYC’s facility in Pyote, Texas. Though Dwight Harris had no prior knowledge of any employee-on-youth sexual misconduct at the facility, news reports inaccurately insinuated he did.

“If I had known about allegations of staff sexual misconduct, I would have called in the Rangers myself,” said Harris. “But, that is irrelevant now. This happened on my watch and I own the ultimate responsibility for it. I don’t want the rest of this session to focus on that. The agency still faces challenges stemming from our expansion in the 1990s and early part of this century. That has to take center stage so that we can find solutions to our safety problems. I know I don’t just speak for myself when I say that we genuinely care about the well-being of our staff and youth.”

This is a sad day for TYC, but kudos to my buddy Nate Blakeslee and the Texas Observer for breaking a story that could lead to major reforms at this troubled agency before the legislative session is done. Sen. Juan Hinojosa's SB 103, discussed earlier here, is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday.

UPDATE (2/24): See initial MSM coverage from AP, the Dallas News here and here, and The Brownsville Herald. Rep. Peña has a few choice words. As an aside: Talk about throwing a news story out with the garbage! TYC issued its press release after 5 o'clock on a Friday afternoon by putting the thing on its website! Still, this story is way too big to ignore, especially with Tuesday's hearing approaching, so I bet this PR maneuver won't help much. Expect more coverage in the Sunday papers and before and after Tuesday's hearing.


Anonymous said...

Harris resigned but he was in Austin when all this happened, yes he was advised of this and failed to act. But, what about the Superintendent, Chip Harrison and the Program Administrator Ayo Omini at the West Texas State School when this was occurring. They were both promoted after this and are still with the agency.

Anonymous said...

The scandal at the State School in Pyote,Tx. is bad,but not as bad as it can be if Ayo Omoniyi remains there. He was a part in the coverup of those accusations as well as other "things" that occured there. Hmmmm I wonder what was done about the incident on a particular Dorm when a student was sodomized with a broken broom handle for writing a complaint and of course the Supervisor in charge JCO VI Anthony Moore who by the way all of a sudden resigned to get a better job in Dallas??? Mr. Omomiyi YOU helped cover that up, and you're the one in charge now at West Texas State School,not only is that bad for everyone involved,that is the WORST possible thing that could be at the State School for students and Staff.Let "JUSTICE" be done!!!

Anonymous said...

What about the third person in charge of the Texas Youth Commission, Don Brantley. It has been stated prior to becoming promoted as the Executive Deputy over Juvenile Corrections while he was the Superintendent at Corsicana State School one of the wards became pregnant. How did this happen under his watch and was anyone held accountable. It was also reported he allowed staff to smoke marijuana with little or no consequences, I thought this was illegal, unless it was for medical purposes. TYC has a lot of work ahead of it.

Anonymous said...

In Nov 2004 TYC executive staff (Dwight Harris, Linda Reyes and all the higher ups on the corrections side) were informed by Ray Worsham's (TYC Chief Inspector General) investigators that Ray Brookins had been inappropriate (in a sexual manner) with a youth. This was a serious policy violation and Mr. Brookins should have been fired. He wasn't. It's unconscionable that he was allowed to stay especially since this man was in a high leadership position (Assistant Supt).
That said..
Let me tell you what's going to be the fallout from the TYC scandal (not that the average viewer will care). The correctional officers at TYC (JCO's) will be very reluctant to break up fights when youth on youth get in altercations. They will be very reluctant to restrain a youth when he gets out of control. Why? Because the legislature keeps bantering about wanting it a felony and 25 years if you abuse a youth.
But that shouldn't worry any of our law makers. When they come back in session two years from now they can use the fall out to continue beating their chests and de-neutering TYC.
I guess the new sheriff in town (Ed Owens) will have to handle this problem. He and his staff that have taken over TYC will be chomping at the bits to get out once they get their feet wet and see that their task is going to be extremely difficult in light of the expected paucity of JCO staff.
Good luck.

Anonymous said...

An investigation usually covers a wrongdoing that HAS BEEN committed- PAST TENSE. The Ranger's investigation was two years ago, therefore, the "crime" must have been before that.
And given the nature of the crime being possible cover up, we cannot be sure how long it went on. So rather than focus on the current board, look at its history.
It appears the SAME person was chairman of the board for 9 years, up until 2004. Is it not possible this chairman was present during this situation?
Imagine the power of chairman after that many years- does this explain the passiveness of the board he left?