Second Youth Commission whistleblower terminated

Case manager had a felony on his record.

By Mike Ward

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Friday, May 11, 2007

A second high-profile whistleblower at the Texas Youth Commission has been cashiered.

This one, for having a felony conviction more than three decades ago.

The dismissal of Anthony Mikulastik, a case manager at the Marlin Orientation and Assessment Unit, came just days after he publicly accused his onetime bosses of ignoring reports of sex abuse three years ago at the West Texas State School a full year before they had claimed they first knew.

"Without a doubt, it's retaliation," he said in a phone interview. "I haven't had so much as a speeding ticket in years, since that conviction for burglary in 1972. I was 19 then. I'm 56 now."

In addition, Mikulastik noted, "I disclosed everything to (Youth Commission officials) when I was hired in 1996, and they said it was not a problem."

At least twice in the past two decades, state records show, the Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended a pardon for Mikulastik. Neither time, though, did the governor grant one.

Youth Commission spokesman Jim Hurley denied Mikulastik's termination had anything to do with his outspokenness.

"Absolutely not. No one cares (Mikulastik) talked with the Dallas Morning News," he said. "We thoroughly vetted each case where someone had a felony record, and that process has been going on for some time."

On May 1, the newspaper reported that Mikulastik and Bill Parker, a former Marlin case worker, had alerted their supervisors to reports of alleged sexual abuse of male students at West Texas and other youth lockups in 2003 and how when their supervisors failed to act, they mailed detailed reports of the allegations to Youth Commission officials in Austin.

Mikulastik said he was terminated May 7.

Top Youth Commission officials have insisted they knew nothing about the sex-abuse allegations until late 2004 or early 2005, about the time a Texas Ranger launched a criminal investigation into a tip by a volunteer math tutor at the West Texas lockup, Marc Slattery.

After a scandal erupted in February over why the abuse reports and indications of an official cover-up were not investigated or prosecuted for two years, Slattery received notice he was being terminated as a volunteer. Youth Commission officials at the time denied retaliation.

"They could have stopped the abuse," Mikulastik said, echoing his comments to the Dallas newspaper. "They didn't want to do anything but cover it up."

Even Mikulastik's recommendations for a pardon don't count, Hurley said.

"Our new policy says if you have ever been convicted of a felony you can't work here," Hurley said. "A pardon is not that much different from a deferred adjudication, and those people can't work here any longer either. A pardon says you've been forgiven for what you did, but it doesn't remove the fact that you were convicted."

In Mikulastik's case, records show, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for breaking into a radio station in Hopkins County in January 1972. He was freed on parole the next year, and completed his sentence without further incident in 1983, parole officials said.

In an appeal Mikulastik filed with the state Office of Administrative Hearings which has been flooded in recent weeks with appeals by other one-time felons fired by the Youth Commission he notes that he disclosed his prior conviction when he was hired, and officials approved his employment in compliance with a policy that was then in effect.

"Now, in 2007, the conservator of the Texas Youth Commission has created a policy which bars the employment of persons with any prior felony conviction," he states in his appeal. "The conservator has chosen to make the policy retroactive, thus violating the offer of employment made to me."

He seeks to be reinstated, for professional counseling "for the psychological trauma suffered as a result of my termination," and "should I not be psychologically fit to return to work," that medical retirement proceedings be started on his behalf.

Hurley declined comment on specifics in the appeal.

"He can make his points on the pardon and whatever with the state Office of Administrative Hearings judge," he said. "The (recommended) pardon is a new wrinkle, but that'll be for the judge to decide. All we're saying is that people who have been convicted of felonies should not be part of the juvenile justice system in this state."

mward@statesman.com

Find this article at:

http://www.statesman.com/news/content/region/legislature/stories/05/12/12tyc.html