February 28, 2007
Lawmakers and top state officials held several closed door meetings today, wrangling over the future of the Texas Youth Commission amid growing disgust over allegations of sex abuse and a coverup. House Speaker Tom Craddick and two powerful state representatives were meeting this afternoon with Governor Rick Perry, who has been reluctant to heed a Senate request that he take over the troubled agency. Craddick declined to speak with reporters as he left his office for the meeting with Perry. He had just met with Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, who wants the governor to fire the agency’s board and appoint a conservator to oversee operations. Some in the Legislature want to take control of the board after allegations that high-ranking officials at a West Texas State school had repeated sexual contact with inmates. A meeting on the issue had to be cancelled Thursday because it wasn’t posted in time, but that hasn’t quelled the emotion of the Texas senator who sponsored the resolution calling for a private management firm to take over the Texas Youth Commission in West Texas. State Senator John Whitmire of Houston, like others in the Senate, was appalled when he learned of a 2-year-old Texas Rangers report which details nearly 100 cases of confirmed sexual abuse of juvenile inmates by members of the TYC staff in Odessa, and that complaints by the victims were not properly registered or investigated. The report also states at least one alleged sexual predator was promoted instead fired. Citing the inappropriate sexual contact, fiscal mismanagement and the fact TYC members may have attempted to cover up the report’s findings, Senator Whitmire sponsored Resolution 384, which passed last night. It calls for the governor to appoint an outside management team to take over the troubled agency on behalf of the state. Wednesday night, Austin Senator Kirk Watson told KVUE News it’s time to send a strong message that the reported actions by TYC staff members will not be tolerated. “We’re looking at potentially a very big cover up of some very significant abuses. We cannot have a state agency that’s abusing our children,” Watson said. The report’s findings led Governor Rick Perry to replace the chairman of the TYC. No word yet on when the canceled Senate and House committee meeting on the TYC will be rescheduled.