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Mover readers are SMART PROGRESSIVE INVOLVED INFLUENTIAL GOOD LOOKING c$0 are 06server oavertisersr Get noticed by Texas Observer folks all over the state and nation. Let them know about your bookstore, service, restaurant, non-profit organization, event, political candidate, shoe store, coffee house, boutique, salon, yoga studio, law practice, etc. TheTexasObserver ADVERTISE IN THE OBSERVER! REASONABLE RATES GREAT EXPOSURE Call 512-477-0746 and ask for Julia Austin or e-mail [email protected] ke3, 06server readers r Consider advertising your business or non-profit in the Observer. GOOD FOR YOU GOOD FOR THE OBSERVER findings fault Harrison by name, and several others clearly imply that he was to blame. In his own defense, Harrison told agency investigators that it was Barnard, the TYC official in Austin, who supported Brookins’ promotion to assistant superintendent at Pyote. Yet none of Harrison’s superiors in Austin, including Barnard, was interviewed by the inspector who authored the report, and perhaps not surprisingly, those superiors are largely absolved by the review’s conclusions. In fact, certain sections of the review, written by a TYC inspector from North Texas, seemed crafted to deflect blame from administrators in Austin. One particularly dubious assertion stands out: “No report of Mr. Brookins frequent, private, visits with youth after hours was ever directly made [to Austin staff].” This statement seems to discount communications documented earlier in the report, such as caseworker Billy Hollis’ August 2004 e-mail to Executive Director Harris, and human resource administrator Kristin Pottenger’s November 2004 e-mail to Austin. Curiously, the review lacks an account of an interview conducted by the inspector that seems particularly damaging to Austin staff. According to a summary of the interview obtained by the Observer, security coordinator Melody Vidaurri, who accompanied Barnard on her visit to the facility in February 2005, told the inspector that “numerous students and staff reported concerns about Ray Brookins’ conduct with students, including rumors of him engaging in sexual behavior with studentsf Vidaurri reported that she shared this information with Barnard as they were driving to the airport on their way back to Austin. “According to Ms. Vidaurri,” the summary states, “Ms. Barnard informed her that these allegations had already been investigated and there was nothing to it:’ Why was it so easy for Vidaurri to collect these reports, unsubstantiated though they may have been, on this visit in February 2005, when Barnard had been able to discover nothing during her trip the previous fall? And why was Vidaurri’s claim to have informed Barnard of her concerns not included in the final report? Tim Savoy, the public information officer for TYC, said Vidaurri’s comments were not included because there was no “independent substantiation” that the conversation with Barnard took place. Randy Chance, a retired, 21-year veteran of TYC and the former inspector general for the western region of the state, said the problem lies within the culture of the agency. “If you’re part of their little club, they cover for you,” he said. For his part, Harrison is unlikely to complain about bearing the brunt of the blame for the scandal at Pyote. He received only a mild sanction for his handling of the crisis. After the dust had settled, he was promoted to a director of corrections position in Austin, which he still holds. Barnard received no sanction of any kind. \(Last month, however, she was demoted for an unrelated violation of agency rules, The internal review alludes to a culture of secrecy and retaliation at Pyote, in which staff and students did not have faith that their complaints would be dealt with seriously and in which they were reluctant to come forward without solid proof of their suspicions for fear of being targeted by their superiors. That culture of retaliation is hardly confined to one facility, according to Randy Chance, who was based at Pyote before his retirement in 2003. Chance said he was not surprised to hear that victims at Pyote brought their fears to a volunteer, someone outside the TYC circle who would not be afraid to speak out. “If you say something, you’ll ruin your career;’ Chance said. “The way TYC thinks about things like this is: If nobody talks, it’s not a problems’ D Wight Harris declined to be interviewed for this story, and he declined to make Lydia Barnard or Chip Harrison available for interviews. In a written response to questions from the Observer, Tim Savoy, the public information officer, said: “What the agency believes happened at the West Texas State School at the hands of then Assistant Superintendent Ray Brookins and Principal John Paul Hernandez is FEBRUARY 23, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21