CORRRECTIONS IS HAVING TROUBLE AT THE TOP
Without revealing why, the Walker Administration fired two senior executives from the Department of Corrections this month.
One is now-former Director of Institutions Bruce Busby. He was the top dog of the prison system.
The other is now-former Deputy Director Caitlin Price, who was Corrections Commissioner Dean Williams’ go-to person to get things done.
Both were dismissed simultaneously. No one will go on record as to why, but the word among Corrections officers is that there was an inappropriate relationship.
There were trips paid by the State to attend and perform official duties … some of which went unperformed … while certain other duties were performed. At the State’s expense.
There are photos, the folks in Corrections say. There are receipts for hotels and bed-and-breakfasts.
Why is this a scandal? Sworn officers, like police and corrections officers, have control over the lives of prisoners. The prison system puts guards and managers in positions of complete power and control over others, making it easily abused. So, the public wants them beyond reproach.
And there’s something else: Gov. Walker said he cleaned up Corrections in 2015. But after promoting Ron Taylor to commissioner upon taking office, the governor abruptly fired him a few months later, saying that the department was “broken” and “in turmoil.”
Why did Walker fire Taylor? His firing was based on a report written for him by the former director of the McLaughlin Youth Center, Dean Williams. Williams was in Walker’s close circle of advisers.
“I think the department has a hard time investigating itself like many agencies do, so out of our report we’re recommending a separate arm with existing resources,” Walker said in the terse press conference in November of 2015, when he announced that he had fired Taylor and put Walt Monegan in charge of Corrections, temporarily. (Monegan later became Public Safety commissioner.)
“We look at a process or model where we can investigate ourselves with high credibility and high trust. Right now we have a broken system,” Walker said.
The report by Williams called for a third-party investigation of administrative and criminal issues. Williams was a special assistant to the governor when he authored the report. He was just the guy to fix it.
Soon, Williams himself was commissioner.
A year later, Williams started a new internal affairs unit to transform the department to be more accountable. He asked a group to go through his report and help him restructure the department.
But people up and down the chain of command in Corrections had already found deep problems with the report. Some Corrections employees had lost their jobs, perhaps unfairly, due to the allegations by Williams.
The union, ACOA, started raising questions about the process used to generate the report that ultimately had gotten Williams his plum job. Pretty soon, there were too many questions and things got rather uncomfortable for Williams. The turmoil started to erode his credibility.
This is where it gets murky. Parts of this story cannot be written because sources would be revealed. Suffice it to say, what we can report so far appears to be only the tip of the iceberg.
“People felt like he got the job because he wrote the report in his favor, but there are a lot of disputable items in this report,” said one source who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There were some really questionable investigative techniques.”
Must Read Alaska learned from people within the Department of Corrections that the firing of two top officers in the Corrections Department for having an inappropriate relationship was needed, but it left untouched others who are engaged in similar behaviors that compromise the integrity of the department.
“It’s common knowledge among personnel that there are people at the top engaging in this behavior,” the source said, behavior that appears to involve misuse of state funds for inappropriate purposes.
In other words, not much has changed at the Department of Corruptions. Things may have gotten even worse.
(Do you have a tip about the Department of Corrections scandal? Must Read Alaska will protect you as a source. firstname.lastname@example.org)