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March 14, 2007 (512) 463-0300

SENATE PASSES MEASURE ABOLISHING TYC BOARD

PHOTO
Senator Chris Harris of Arlington discusses his bill that abolishes the current Texas Youth Commission Board of Trustees.

(AUSTIN) -- Just one day after a Senate committee sent the measure for floor debate, the Senate unanimously approved a bill that fires the current Texas Youth Commission Board of Trustees. The bill would also preclude the Governor from re-appointing any current members back to the board. Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, a long-time advocate of reform at the TYC, said Wednesday's action was appropriate and necessary. "This board had to go. It was asleep at the wheel," he said. "They ignored all the red flags, they refused to be proactive, and they have no experience in dealing with this kind of situation to the point that they were negligent and irresponsible in fulfilling the duties as board members."

The scandal at the TYC began last month when a two-year-old report surfaced alleging sexual abuse of some TYC inmates by agency employees. Last week, at a meeting of the joint committee charged with addressing problems at the TYC, lawmakers asked for the resignation of the board members, going so far as to pass a vote of no confidence against the board.

Senator Chris Harris of Arlington, who authored Wednesday's bill, said the vote sends a clear message as to where the Senate stands on this issue. "I think there will be no question as far as how strongly the Texas Senate feel about these circumstances and the need to appoint a new board."

The bill will now go to the House for final approval, then on to the Governor's desk for passage into law. If the bill is vetoed by the Governor, the bill would then go back to the Legislature, where lawmakers could override the veto with a two-thirds majority in both houses.

Following Wednesday's session, the Joint Committee on TYC Operation and Management held its second meeting in order to hear more testimony on the current investigation into wrong doing at the TYC. State Auditor John Keel updated the committee on the progress his office has made in investigating wrongdoing at the TYC. He said that since last week, officials from his office have visited 33 facilities around the state, and collected more than 3,200 surveys from young inmates at these facilities. A report detailing the results of the survey should be available by this Friday, or next Monday, said Keel. Further testimony from officials in the Auditor's Office revealed serious problems within the youth grievance system at the TYC. Officials found that the process did not facilitate reporting from inmates or staffers, and that complaints were not addressed in a timely manner.

Senator Whitmire who, co-chairs this committee, along with Representative Jerry Madden, said before the meeting that it's not the facts that are in the open that he's worried about. "I am concerned about a continued cover-up," he said. "What scares me the most is what we do not know."

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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