Thursday, March 8, 2012

Political football of Courthouse security fund laid bare

Video by R.S. Gates

Facts surrounding the overbudget, ad hoc nature of funding courthouse security operations do not support public statements made by Chief Deputy Randy Plemons, a candidate for the nomination for McLennan County Sheriff.

Here are a few of the confrontations and discussions that have taken place so far regarding this development, something caused when incoming DA Abel Reyna and the Criminal District Judges decided to convene twice as many grand jury sessions early in his term during 2011. - The Legendary

A quick primer of laws governing private jails

Part 1 - It is very sad that Chief Plemons does not know the responsibilities when it comes to the Jack Harwell Detention Center operated by a private jail company, CEC. Sheriff Lynch/Chief Plemons ARE responsible for the privately operated jail and the inmates in that facility. Everyday there are 140 to over 200 "County Inmates" shuttled back and forth between the County Highway 6 Jail (ran by th...e Sheriff's Office) that add extra revenue to the "Revenue Bond Jail"... There are also "Contract Inmates" that were in an current contract with CEC from the downtown McLennan Detention Center at the Harwell Jail moved there by Sheriff Lynch/Chief Plemons with the approval of the County Judge Jim Lewis and the Commissioners. This move was supposed to "prime the pump" showing that the empty new facility was a functional facility in the hope that other government entities would enter in a contract with the county in order to help generate a money flow to pay the bonds on the new facility.

Part 2 - CEC was hired to operate the Harwell Facility. The Sheriff Lynch/Chief Plemons has to sign the contract to build the facility and to enter a contract with a private group to operate it. This is according to the Texas Local Government Code. Something Sheriff Lynch tried to blame on the Commissioners in June of 2008 in a discussion with employees of the county jail. Sheriff Lynch stated that he had no control over the building of a new jail and would be unable to stop the Commissioners from privatizing the existing county jails.

Texas Local Government Code...

SUBCHAPTER F. COUNTY CONTRACT WITH PRIVATE ENTITY FOR JAIL FACILITIESSec. 351.101. AUTHORITY TO CONTRACT. The commissioners court of a county, with the approval of the sheriff of the county, may contract with a private organization to place inmates in a detention facility operated by the organization. The commissioners court may not contract with a private organization in which a member of the court or an elected or appointed peace officer who serves in the county has a financial interest or in which an employee or commissioner of the Commission on Jail Standards has a financial interest. A contract made in violation of this section is void.
Added by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 1, Sec. 73(a), eff. Aug. 28, 1989. Amended by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 952, Sec. 5, eff. Sept. 1, 1999.

Sec. 351.102. ADDITIONAL AUTHORITY TO CONTRACT. The commissioners court of a county may contract with a private vendor to provide for the financing, design, construction, leasing, operation, purchase, maintenance, or management of a jail, detention center, work camp, or related facility. The commissioners court may not award a contract under this section unless the commissioners court requests proposals by public notice and not less than 30 days from such notice receives a proposal that meets or exceeds the requirements specified in the request for proposals. Before the commissioners court of a county enters into a contract under this section, the commissioners court of the county must receive the written approval of the sheriff of the county, which written approval shall not be unreasonably withheld, or if the county has a population of 2.8 million or more:(1) ensure that all services provided under the contract are required to meet or exceed standards set by the Commission on Jail Standards; or(2) receive the written approval of the sheriff of the county, which written approval shall not be unreasonably withheld.

Added by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 1, Sec. 73(a), eff. Aug. 28, 1989. Amended by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 479, Sec. 2, eff. Aug. 28, 1989; Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 318, Sec. 73, eff. Sept. 1, 1995.

Sec. 351.103. CONTRACT REQUIREMENTS. A contract made under Section 351.102 must:(1) if the contract includes operation or management of the facility by the private vendor, require the private vendor to operate the facility in compliance with minimum standards adopted by the Commission on Jail Standards and receive and retain a certification of compliance from the commission;(2) if the contract includes operation or management of the facility by the private vendor, provide for regular, on-site monitoring by the sheriff;

Part 3 - Why would Sheriff Lynch try to mislead the employees and the public? Was he really that ignorant of the Local Government Code, or was he merely trying to keep down the rumors on a "behind the scenes jail deal" to build a jail that was not wanted by the citizens? I find it hard to believe that a seasoned Administrator with a college degree would not be knowledgeable about the Governments C...odes which gives him some of the basic guidlines to operate the Sheriff's Office and jails. Tx LGC 351... The Sheriff has to conduct two on-site monitoring reports a month as oversight on the privately operated jail. It is in the Local Government Code, 351, and required by the Texas Commision on Jail Standards (TCJS). The Sheriff is not responsible for the everday hands on operation of the private facility, yet he is required to oversee the facility. An open records request was given to Chief Plemons asking to see those monthly reports. Chief Plemons replied that they do not keep records on that type of inspection. We are always reminded by our supervisors, "IF IT IS NOT DOCUMENTED, IT DID NOT HAPPEN". The County Judge's Secretary stated that they do not receive any reports of on-site monitoring from the Sheriff's Office. If there is no record, do you really think that Sheriff Lynch and Chief Plemons are doing the inspections? Maybe if the Sheriff and Chief did their inspections, they would have been able to point out some of the problems to CEC so CEC would have been able to pass the TCJS inspections. There is a clause in the contract to remove CEC from operating the facility, yet the Sheriff and Chief do not use it. WHY WOULD YOU KEEP CEC IN BUSINESS IF THEY CAN'T OPERATE THE JAIL???? That's an easy loose the $12,000 a year stipend the Sheriff makes for signing the private jail contract...oh, I forgot, it is now figured into the Sheriff's salary, so it doesn't sound like a stipend. If Plemons does not think he is responsible for the private jail and the inmates next door, then I guess it is because he learned it from the Master, his Sheriff Lynch.

- a source very close to the story contributed this portion of the report... - The Legendary

1 comment:

  1. So glad you brought this up. I have often wondered why nobody has mentioned the Sheriff was getting paid for his oversight. I think I read somewhere they said the do a "monthly walk through". There are not a tremendous amount of jail standards, they are fairly basic. CEC's failure on the inspection was mostly paperwork issues and the Sheriff should have caught that before the inspection.

    But above that, the most shameful thing is that if this county would have simply taken steps to get things coordinated between the jail, Courts, DA's office and probation department, they could have easily reduced the jail population and there would never have been a need for the new jail.