When the parents felt that remedy Gayer offered no remedy, they turned to members of the Texas Legislature early this year. In response to the charges made by parents and by the Texas Association for Retarded Citizens, Reps. Lyndon Olson, Jerry Donaldson and Betty Denton, along with former Rep. Lane Denton, called on Dr. Gayer at MH/MR’s offices in Austin on Jan. 7. After the meeting, Dr. Gayer ordered that an interagency investigation be made into the Mexia State School. The results of the probe were gathered into a 138-page report which was completed on Feb. 8. Legislators, parents of Mexia residents and the Texas Association for Retarded Citizens pressed for copies, but Gayer refused to release the report, citing portions of the state’s Open Records Act and arguing that the record should be kept closed to protect the privacy of residents named in the report. An attorney general’s opinion issued on June 15 ruled that unclassified portions could be released to the public and that legislators should be allowed access to most of the report. The entire report, according to the opinion, could not be released to anyone without special authorization as provided by law. The Hale committee, with its subpoena power, should be able to gain access to the full report. Strong, supportable conclusions can be drawn about the report’s contents from MH/MR correspondence and conversations the Observer had with the same sources interviewed by the agency’s investigating team. Dr. Gayer, in the March 9 letter he sent to the three legislators, conceded that the report revealed a number of deficiencies in the management of the Mexia school. Gayer wrote: “The investigation revealed the following deficiencies in the management of the institution: In some instances less than the highest standard of medical care is given; An overly authoritative attitude on the part of the superintendent toward employees of the institution has resulted in reluctance upon the part of the employees to voice their opinions as to what is in the best interests of residents under their care; Instances were discovered of improper handling of complaints registered by parents of residents; There were instances of failure to inform parents of injuries to or assault upon their children; Medical records were not properly maintained.” Gayer subsequently presented Mexia superintendent Malcolm Lauderdale with a list of 51 remedial steps and or 4 The Texas Observer Former supt. Malcolm Lauderdale dered the earliest possible implementation. In spite of Gaver’s action, and in light of the classified status of MH/MR’s investigative report, the Texas Association for Retarded Citizens launched its own investigation into operations at Mexia. At its annual convention in April, TARC passed a resolution authorizing its own probe. Bernadette Jenney of TARC’s executive board was named the chair of a five-member investigative committee. Paid staffers Dale Simpson and Bill Schnapp provided technical assistance for the investigation. Schnapp, the director of the Houston Association for Retarded Citizens, turned up evidence corroborating many of the charges touching on substandard care. There seems little question that commissioner Gayer sought to correct the deficiencies revealed by his agency’s internal report. His recommendations included a change in the name of the school’s “hospital” to “infirmary” \(the facility has never been equipped as a title and administrative responsibilities of the “hospital administrator” \(Johnny Amick no longer performs medical proall medical technicians by licensed physicians, the recruitment of a neurologist and other medical specialists for consultant services, and the acquisition of an electroencephalograph machine for diagnosing neurological disorders. If parents and other interested parties had failed to prove the inadequacy of care at the school, Dr. Gaver’s recommendations saw to the job. Why would a facility which cares for the severely retarded not have an EEG machine? Dr. Gayer told the Observer that an EEG unit had not been requested by the school before his submission of the 51 recommendations. Why would a school not have a consulting neurologist when convulsive disorders and neurological deficit occur frequently among the retarded? Dr. Gayer explained that even before his agency’s internal investigation had been made, he and superintendent Lauderdale had discussed the need for a more aggressive recruitment of staff physicians. On March 15, only days after he received Dr. Gaver’s list of recommendations, Lauderdale submitted his resignation. His letter referred to neither the problems at the school nor pressures from TARC members for his removal. He said nothing about his future plans, but said he was resigning because of “personal problems and a strong desire to make a change.” No one on the outside really knows what kind of arrangement MH/MR worked out with Lauderdale, but the former superintendent, despite his resignation, remains on the MH/MR payroll and continues to live in the superintendent’s residence, work at the school, and attend staff meetings. He has been placed in charge of “special projects” and has supervised the implementation of Dr. Gaver’s recommendations for correcting the abuses his administration is alleged to have tolerated. As an institution of government, the Mexia State School is an interesting enclave. One of Dr. Gaver’s difficulties has been that Craft, Gaver’s assistant responsible for advising him on the situation in Mexia, formerly worked as the director of “cottage life” at the school under Lauderdale. Dr. Craft advised the parents of a resident who had brought a number of allegations about the school to his attention that he could find no reason to recommend to Dr. Gayer that superintendent Lauderdale be dismissed. A curious footnote: Dr. Craft’s father is TARC The Texas Association for Retarded Citizens \(833 Houston St., programs on behalf of the mentally retarded and their families. TARC’s 14,000 members and 70 local chapters carry on community work, public education, legislative lobbying, and job training and legal counseling for retarded Texans. Current officers of the private, nonprofit organization are Mrs. Gene Karaffa of Waco, president; Dr. James E. Payne of Austin, vice president; Bernadette Jenney of Arlington, secretary; Dr. Carol Whitcraft of Austin, treasurer; and Joe Simpson of Longview, past president. A new executive director, Dr. Jack Blackstone, begins work July 1.
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