Meet Ed Owens.
Ed Owens effectively became the Texas Youth Commission czar Friday, vested with total power to rebuild an agency in administrative disarray and unable to guarantee the safety of youth in its custody.
Owens, the TYC's acting executive director, was given unfettered decision-making authority by the agency's governing board moments before its six members resigned.
As Owens took control of the scandal-ridden juvenile corrections system, he laid out a two-page plan outlining 24 areas where he wanted to overhaul the agency to improve staff and youth safety as well as rehabilitation services for the incarcerated youth.
"When you talk about changing a culture, that takes some time," he said, but added, "It's time for action."
Owens promised to establish systems to standardize staff training and to have central office staff review all allegations of abuse and neglect rather than leaving the primary job up to personnel in the individual institutions.
There also will be routine criminal background checks on staff.
Owens also promised an administrative shake-up in the Austin headquarters if that became necessary to break an entrenched bureaucracy that has resisted change.
He said he will surround himself with professionals who are "decisive" and take initiative.
Shifting oversight from a larger board to one person appointed by the governor - any person, any governor - is a bad idea. Boards aren't useless if the Governor doesn't appoint useless board members.
I don't think he should be granted autocratic power. Here's the case why:
1. So far Owens has shown a tendency to cover up rather than honestly discuss TYC's problems with the Legislature.
2. More investigation needs to be done to discover whether Owens covered up sex abuse allegations at his last job.
3. An imperious management style won't encourage communication to let management identify and prevent problems.
The Texas Senate had wanted the TYC governing board replaced with a conservatorship, but Gov. Rick Perry has said he wanted a single commissioner reporting to the governor.
Legislative leaders have opposed the single commissioner idea, but with the board's recommendations Perry has gotten what he wanted at least temporarily.
While a governing board is subject to Senate review, Owens will be less accountable to the Legislature than to Perry. An internal e-mail from the governor's office shows that Owens already is taking direction from Perry's staff.
The e-mail obtained by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News shows that when Owens was appointed as acting executive director on March 1, he was told to contact Perry's press secretary "regarding talking points for tomorrow."