TEXAS YOUTH COMMISSION

Texas Youth Commission executive director quits

Sources: Pope was given option of leaving or being fired

By Mike Ward

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The embattled acting executive director of the Texas Youth Commission, Dimitria Pope, resigned Monday, reportedly after being told that she would be fired if she didn't quit.

Her chief of staff, Mickey Neel, also resigned, agency spokesman Jim Hurley said.

The departures marked the latest management shake-up at the agency, whose top officials were forced out last spring amid allegations that sexual abuse of incarcerated teenagers was not properly investigated. The governing board was also fired as the agency was placed in conservatorship, a form of receivership.

Pope was among several state prison officials brought in to sort out the mess.

She became chief of staff in April and was promoted to acting executive director in June after Ed Owens was promoted to conservator. In December, Richard Nedelkoff replaced Owens as conservator.

Pope had been under fire in recent months because of an order allowing pepper spray to be used more frequently to control unruly youths.

She also made headlines for paying for expensive office renovations with money the Legislature had appropriated to the agency to hire guards.

Reports had circulated within the agency for more than a month that Pope was on her way out. On Monday, two sources who said they had been briefed on Nedelkoff's plans said Pope was given the option of leaving or being fired. At a legislative hearing last week, Pope confirmed that Nedelkoff had told her that she was not in line to become the permanent executive director, a job he had posted just days before.

Until Monday, Pope had continued with business as usual. At mid-afternoon, as news of her impending termination spread, she told a reporter she was "still employed."

Nedelkoff could not be reached for comment, but Hurley confirmed late Monday that Pope had resigned. Hurley said Nedelkoff would make a statement today about Pope's departure.

Pope did not immediately return phone calls for comment. Neel could not be reached.

Nedelkoff said earlier that he planned to move quickly to fill the executive director's job, but a week ago, he extended the search for an indefinite period. Hurley said Nedelkoff does not expect to name a permanent executive director soon.

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