The talk this week has been that more damaging information will emerge about sexual predators infiltrating Texas Youth Commission facilities (see here and here). I can’t confirm this. But I do wonder why Rick Perry waited until this week to take action. The chronology, as I pieced it together from a Houston Chronicle article yesterday, is this:
In 2005, the Texas Rangers investigated sexual abuse at the West Texas State School in Pyote and notified the governor’s staff of the problem. But the Rangers’ report on the probe, a governor’s spokesman told the Chronicle, was given only to TYC. That seems very peculiar to me. The spokesman said that the governor’s staff did not become aware of the report until November 2006. Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst and senators Whitmire and Hinojosa say that they didn’t learn about the report until February 2007. Perry did not take action until this week.
So what really happened? Is it possible that his staff did not inform the governor that sexual abuse was rampant at TYC? Then heads ought to roll in the governor’s office. If the staff did inform the governor, why did he wait to take action for four months while young people were vulnerable to sexual predation? There is a serious issue here of what did the governor know and when did he know it. The time frame when the governor’s staff “became aware” of the report–November 2006–stands out like a blinking light: election time. Was there a reason that this report did not get circulated until well after the governor was safely reelected? Or was the governor an innocent victim of a cover-up by TYC?
The American Statesman reported on Friday that the agency altered its own internal report to delete references that top agency officials were aware of the abuse. If this is true, people are going to go to jail.
The Legislative Audit Committee moved to establish a conservatorship over the agency, in which case the governor would have chosen the conservator, but Perry chose to employ a special master instead, because, according to his press release, “Texas Government Code 2104.021 dictates that an order of conservatorship precludes a governor from also ordering the agency to enter into a rehabilitation plan. Perry said that his appointment of a Special Master will allow the state to use all of the additional tools provided by the Audit Committee, rather than choosing only one.” The governor certainly has a right to choose the course that he did, but his choice for special master does not inspire confidence that the investigation will be free of politics: Jay Kimbrough, Perry’s former Texas homeland security coordinator. If his name sounds familiar, it was Kimbrough who, during the redistricting battle of 2003, gave Department of Public Safety officers the telephone number to the agency within the federal Homeland Security Department that helped Texas officials track down the Democrats who had fled to Ardmore. The special master should have been someone free of political taint, not a Perry crony. Not that I’m surprised.