Tuesday, December 18, 2012

WA - Troubles persist on predator island

Original Article


By Christine Willmsen

Numerous interviews and hundreds of pages of public records tell a story of chronic misconduct by some employees at the state's Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island, including suspected abuse of overtime and paid leave that may have involved as many as 85 workers.

The state's $48 million Special Commitment Center, which detains and treats Washington's most dangerous sex offenders, has been plagued by costly absenteeism, employee fraud and flawed employment screening, The Seattle Times has found.

Relying on hundreds of pages of recently obtained public records and numerous interviews, The Times learned of suspected abuse of overtime and paid leave that may have involved as many as 85 employees at the Special Commitment Center (SCC) on McNeil Island, near Tacoma.

Two employees alone were paid $32,000 in overtime for work never performed, documents show.

Referring to several specific cases, former SCC superintendent Kelly Cunningham said: "They got paid for work they didn't do — that's theft of state resources."

So far, none has been punished for any payroll infractions because a state Auditor's Office investigation into the matter — after nearly two and a half years — is still not completed.

The SCC, which has 371 employees, has had a troubled history with staff at the remote location. In comparison to employees in the state's prison system, workers at the McNeil Island facility have been disciplined for misconduct this year at a rate four times higher.

Since January, the SCC has fired eight employees, suspended four and slapped 26 others with letters of reprimand or other discipline for misconduct unrelated to the auditor's probe. Among those fired: a high-ranking manager who turned in a made-up investigative report, staffers accused of viewing pornography on their work computers, and two employees who forged doctor's notes to cover up their absenteeism.

Earlier this year, The Times' four-part series "Price of Protection" revealed the state had wasted millions of dollars because of lack of oversight, unchecked defense costs and delayed commitment trials. The state spends about $170,000 a year for each of the 297 sex offenders on McNeil Island.

The SCC has also been marred by a long-running federal probe into illegal drugs and child pornography that resulted in employees and sex offenders being sent to prison. Federal agents continue to investigate contraband entering the facility.

Evidence of abuses

Chronic problems at the SCC came into sharper focus in 2009, when its new superintendent, Cunningham, was asked to cut staff and expenses as the state budget crisis peaked. As he looked for ways to save money, he was surprised to see the center paying about $150,000 a month in overtime.


Loneranger said...

who couldn't see this coming? Really? are you kidding me? Well I would venture a guess that most prisons have their share of problems. However when you have laws that lock people up like this that are in themselves boarder line unconstitutional. It turns into a scam all the way around. Once again with the pretense that it is necessary to protect society. We used to place the ones that were criminally insane in mental facilities along with others that were just insane. It all amounted to the same thing for the most part. Ones that were proven to be a danger to themselves and others. Now under a pretense of public safety they have places like this. A blank check is provided and budgets based on how many they have as well as how high they can drive the over head. Place the workers in charge capable of writing out as much as they can for themselves and deliver the least amount for it. Perfect. Sex offenders have been used to promote so many new business where would the economy be without them. Really? Well for one if you take a look at where the money comes from. How many private sector workers does it take through taxes taken from their paychecks each month to fund one state employee? Well take a look at how much you pay in state taxes. Then do the math. They work for us as collectively we pay for them. So when places like this exist and we pay 170,000 per inmate how many private sector workers does it take? Come on do the math and remember you voted this in. Maybe you didn't understand when that feel good law was presented and you bought the sales pitch presented. average working people really have no idea what government is doing or why. making us easy prey for programs like this. Don't let them use fear to keep this going. Find a better way to handle this. If it looks like a scam it probably is.

Loneranger said...

Given this is Washington and they do not have state tax this can not be applied to them. However the money does come from the people be it sales tax or property tax. You can't say it is fair and the state workers also pay tax as the private sector paid them in the first place. Just wanted to clear that up before someone jumped. Thing is Washington is not the only state that has places like this. No mater what it is coming out of the private sector one way or another.