Sex offender agency needs overhaul after not operating properly

A group of men walk outside a home to where sex offenders had been moved on W. Montgomery Road in the Acres Homes neighborhood in Houston. The high-risk offenders had been transferred to the unlicensed boarding house from a halfway house to free beds needed for low-risk offenders. Neighbors learned of the men's presence when they received notifications from the state sex-offender registry. On Friday, April 4, 2014, officials said the group serving civil commitment sentences are being moved back to a halfway house. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Johnny Hanson)

AUSTIN (AP) — State officials say the Texas agency that oversees violent sex offenders must undergo an overhaul because for years it didn’t operate according to basic management practices.

Marsha McLane, the new director of the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management, says she’s found that employees worked from home and had little supervision. Personnel and contract files could not be found. The Houston Chronicle reported that these and other problems have conspired to slow efforts to bring order to the agency.

The former director, Allison Taylor, has been criticized by lawmakers and others for relocating about three dozen sex offenders to neighborhoods in Austin and Houston without notifying residents. She later moved another two dozen offenders to a minimum-security halfway house, again without notifying nearby residents.

When workers traveled to supervise the tough, ex-convict offenders in Austin they almost always stayed in more expensive hotels by checking a box on the state travel form stating “no safe lodging available.” The practice has since stopped.

“There’s a lot of safe places in Austin where you can stay for that,” McLane said.

To avoid travel and lodging costs, McLane has hired two part-time case managers in Austin.

She also said that the employees would be paid for 40-hour weeks even as time sheets were filled automatically and they may not reflect the actual hours they worked.

McLane also found out the agency — which is one of the state’s smallest with about two dozen employees — operated from three small, separate offices in Austin. The phones were not on the same system and Taylor’s office was used for storage as she worked from home.

McLane has been told the computer at Taylor’s home crashed and no files were recoverable from it.

The agency is responsible for overseeing about 300 sex offenders who, because of the severity of their crimes, are kept in state custody through court-ordered civil commitments after their release from prison.

In its 15 years in operation, none of the detainees has completed the program.

After resigning, Taylor started working as a Medicaid investigator for the state’s Health and Human Services Commission with a $70,000-a-year salary. She has not spoken about what led to her resignation or the findings after McLane took office.


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