STATE AGENCY SCANDAL #1: TEXAS YOUTH COMMISSION COVERS-UP SYSTEMIC CHILD ABUSE
November 16th, 2009
In 2005 and 2006, Texas Ranger Roger Burzynski sent federal and state officials detailed reports of sexual abuse at a Texas Youth Commission (TYC) facility in West Texas, but Republican leaders failed to act, prompting state legislators to take action to approve legislation to address the scandal.
Time and again in the era of one-party Republican rule, those charged with running Texas state agencies under the direction of Gov. Rick Perry have tried to sweep problems under the rug to avoid political embarrassment. When the Texas Youth Commission was rocked by revelations of systemic abuse of minors by staff in its facilities, Perry’s office and his handpicked political appointees at the TYC attempted a cover-up, forcing legislators to put the agency into conservatorship. Impropriety at the Texas Youth Commission continues to this day.
- Press reports indicate that a retired TYC Inspector General and a former TYC Guard emailed the Governor’s office directly in 2004 to report cases of rape and sexual abuse by TYC employees. Months later, Perry’s office assigned a junior staff person to look into Ranger Burzynski’s report in February, 2005, during a legislative session. Perhaps with the 2006 election in mind, Perry’s office failed to disclose the crisis until the story broke in 2007, when the Governor claimed he first learned of it when reading the Dallas Morning News. (Source: Dallas Morning News)
- In March 2007, news broke that TYC officials had altered an internal document “detailing how a sexual molestation scandal went undetected for more than a year in the Texas Youth Commission was altered, to delete references that top agency officials were alerted to the abuse but did nothing to stop it.” (Source: Austin American-Statesman)
- Texas lawmakers stepped in and took action after learning of the corruption and attempted cover-up at Perry’s TYC, and ultimately approved legislation that addressed the TYC scandal. (Source: San Antonio Express-News)
- The man Perry finally appointed as the Conservator in charge of the TYC investigation, Mr. James Kimbrough, has a long employment history helping Republican officeholders during tough times. In fact, Kimbrough was a ranking official in Attorney General Abbott’s office when they decided they would not pursue the TYC abuse case after receiving the Ranger’s report. (Source: Lone Star Project)
- Unfortunately, corruption at the TYC is not a thing of the past, as indicated by an Austin American-Statesman report just last month: “The newly appointed ombudsman for the Texas Youth Commission has been barred from touring lockups amid reports that she smuggled contraband — including a weapon, a cell phone, prescription drugs and cash — past guards in apparent violation of state law.” (Source: Austin American-Statesman)
It is shameful that Governor Perry, Greg Abbott and Bush Justice Department officials were informed that officers at Texas Youth Commission facilities were committing widespread child sexual abuse, yet they failed to act until press reports brought this horrid pattern of abuse to light, generating public pressure and legislative action. Back-room deals, cronyism, and cover-ups may be business as usual under Rick Perry and the Republicans, but the abuse that was neglected in the TYC scandal is beneath contempt and inexcusable.