TYC: You can’t quit just yet

The TYC board may have resigned on Friday, but that may not mean anything just yet:

Mark Brown, a lawyer with the Texas Legislative Council, told state lawmakers today that despite their resignation letters, the Texas Youth Commission governing board can’t quit.

Brown said the resignation letters the board gave Gov. Rick Perry last Friday may signal their intent to leave the board, but he said they actually serve until Perry names their successors and those people are “qualified” to serve.

During a legislative session, “qualified” means confirmed by the Senate.

Brown said the board’s status as quit or serving may not matter because they passed a resolution giving all of their authority to acting Executive Director Ed Owens.

“They passed the gavel,” Brown said.

That’s this Ed Owens. Let’s hope he knows what he’s doing with that authority.

Whatever the case with the board, that won’t stop other people from quitting.

Deputy Executive Director Linda Reyes and General Counsel Neil Nichols resigned their positions, said agency spokesman Jim Hurley. Reyes had been at TYC for 18 years, and Nichols had been there for 33 years.

Reyes has been in charge of the resocialization program for youth in the agency’s custody.

Nichols was the agency lawyer who helped negotiate a settlement in 1988 to the Morales v. Turman federal lawsuit. The TYC had been under a federal court order for fourteen years amid allegations of abuse and neglect of students in the system’s custody.

Nichols also has been instrumental in drafting juvenile justice legislation since 1995.

But both were senior executives at the commission during the past three years when high staff turnovers began occurring and there were renewed allegations of staff on youth physical and sexual assault. Legislators have accused the agency’s executive staff of ignoring problems as they developed.

“These people were part of the executive leadership of this agency when all the stories that were reported were taking place,” Hurley said. “We need a new direction at this agency. We need a new culture. We need a new attitude.”

Both were asked to resign by Owens, and more such departures may follow. This is now Ed Owens’ commission, and he’s Rick Perry’s man. I hope he succeeds, but I trust you understand my reluctance to embrace him.

On a side note, Perry’s special master for TYC gets a glowing profile in the Chron. I’m sure Jay Kimbrough is all that and a bag of chips, but it might have been nice to hear from someone who isn’t necessarily convinced that one of the Governor’s political operatives is the right person to clean house in an objective let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may fashion.

UPDATE: Missed this earlier: the first major lawsuit related to this scandal has now been filed. Thanks to Vince for the catch.

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