Thursday, May 10, 2012

TDCJ Public Information Officer charged for responding to Backgate and Senator Whitmire via email regarding misconduct by the agency, resigns amidst false claims, retaliation.


Michelle Lyons


 *Updated 05/11/12

By: Duane Stuart, Backgate Website

TDCJ Public Information Officer (PIO) Michelle Lyons resigned this morning after being targeted by TDCJ's Bryan Collier and others for simply reporting the truth. Lyons, who has been employed by TDCJ for the past 11 years, resigned after enduring retaliation and harassment by agency officials for several months. Michelle had been nothing but cordial and professional throughout our years of exchanges as the website sought out answers to questions regarding policy, statistics or contraband issues. Many of our inquiries were also forwarded to state Legislators for their knowledge as well.

Ultimately, this action (forwarding emails to Legislators) is what is believed to have put Michelle on the radar with her TDCJ bosses. She responded to us like she would have any other entity seeking answers. Certain TDCJ administrators didn't appreciate the fact that we were in the loop as we are sometimes critical of TDCJ policies and other issues. Last Friday, Michelle responded to a request for information we filed the week prior for a statement about the ongoing facebook privacy story. She stated that she had been removed from that position, and explained why she had been. She had raised concerns to her bosses about the way time was being kept months ago within the department, and brought it forward. That's were it all began. A few trumped up charges later, one for not helping a subordinate by not supplying a statement for him to use in her name, and one for explaining to us via email why she wasn't able to answer our "official request" and the rest is history. Michelle emailed us this statement this morning;

" When I received the email from Duane on Friday and when I responded to him and
everyone who he had originally copied on the message, it set in motion a chain of
events. Within a couple of hours, my email account was 'frozen' and I was told I was
under investigation. Before I was charged with failing to obey an order, I was told
that I should not have responded to Duane because he is considered media. At this
point, I would note that some time ago, I was tracking down an answer to a question
Duane had asked me and I went to Mr. Collier. He asked why I was responding to Duane
since "he's not media." It's interesting to me that he wasn't 'media' several months
ago, but now he is? At the time, I said that while Duane may not meet the definition
of media in TDCJ's own media policy, that he is a TDCJ employee and member of the
public and that I respond to as many inquiries I can from the public in addition to
those I receive from the media. That's exactly what
 I did on Friday. I view it as responding to a message from a colleague about
possible federal labor law and privacy violations and including on it my union
representative and two state lawmakers. Why is that an issue? "
 
Michelle went on to say;
 
"I know that what I've gone through these last six months is similar to what so many
other TDCJ employees have had to endure during their own tenures with the agency. I
just really didn't understand until it happened to me. I'll never know exactly what
initiated the discriminatory measures they took against me with my demotion and
pay cut, but I can pinpoint that the retaliation began as soon as I questioned the
way TDCJ requires employees to track their time and how they appear to be
circumventing federal labor laws through some policies (although an agency policy
obviously shouldn't trump federal law). Within two weeks, Mr. Collier told me "I
should have just fired you," and it only escalated from there. "
  
 "It started months ago,
 when they told me that I was no longer allowed to comment on any matter
 involving Sen. Whitmire - they told me I had become a "lightning rod" for
 the agency where Sen. Whitmire is concerned. (What bothered me about that
 is that 9 times out of 10, I'm saying what they tell me to say, so if
 anything, I'm only a mouthpiece for the real lightning rods, but that's
 another matter.)" 
 
It's ashamed that any employee with TDCJ must endure these types of retaliation and harassment. But it hits home when it's an employee in the public eye, and with media connections like those of Michelle Lyons. TDCJ has become so comfortable with it's unchecked retaliation and harassment that it doesn't skip a beat in mistreating employees statewide. As the Sunset Commission Hearings with the Legislature approach us soon, i am almost positive these issues will be heard by Legislators. Michelle Lyons was the last line of defense and the open door that provided some sense of transparency for an agency still living and operating in the dark ages. With her gone, the agency will surely suffer a huge blow to their ability to be believable and honest. We wish you the best Michelle.

 

51 comments:

  1. TDCJ is the most corrupt agency I have ever dealt with.That it has gone on this long is a shame.

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  2. It's amazing how people think so much of Collier, but he's one of the biggest pricks of all. Hi Bryan - ya PRICK!

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  3. I went through that with that tiny little fellow myself. His best evidence was - "Where there's smoke, there's fire". What a troll!

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  4. Time perhaps for a Senator Whitmire intervention?

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  5. And they wonder why we are so short handed.

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  6. It used to be an honor to work for TDCJ. Things have really changed in the last twenty years. You have some people with high positions within the agency who are totally corrupt. They are anything but honest. They have lowered their standards in order to get enough guards to work. It is only a miracle that there hasn't been a surge of riots within the system with this decreased level of employee. Just waiting for the riots. This young lady has been a total asset to TDCJ and she does not deserve this treatment. I hope she takes them to court and wins big and then goes to work for another agency that will treat her like she deserves to be treated. I wish her the very best..

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  7. I was an TDCJ employee and now I work in the private sector. I enjoy my evening shift and not work the 12 hours shift.

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  8. Walking vermin exist in the Texas legislative body & TDCJ-ID. John Whitmire, who awoke one day after his life was threatened by a death row offender, has blessed us with his banter for quite some time. Every single time there is a problem in adult and/or juvenile corrections, he acts surprised. I am embarrassed to be a member of the same political party. As for TDCJ-ID, you don't work around convicts that long without adopting some of their ways, do you? Power-thrusting is at the top of the list of aberrant behavior.

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  9. Plenty of people's careers have been sidelined by an ego.

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  10. I can agree. TDCJ-ID used to be a great place to work; however, after a while, the arse-kissers started worming their way to the top. Now, the more damaged egos are in charge. Many of the old school Wardens are long gone. I miss them. I respected most of them. If you ever want to see psychopathology manifested in a Warden's position, visit Gatesville, Texas. Then, run!

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    1. Better yet visit the Gist unit in Beaumont,Warden Goings is one of the worse wardens ever. He has the moral down so low it doesn't exist.You could ask any officer or rank there and I would bet you won't get one person to say they like or enjoy working for him.

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    2. Now you know everyone loves Warden Pinky. LOL

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  11. NOTE: Keep the comments clean. We have to present ourselves as professionals. Keep the comments in line with the topic. Thanks !

    - Webmaster

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  12. She was the last line of defense indeed! Filling her former position with someone as capable as she was is not going to be easy, and they are surely barking up the wrong tree if they are considering the miniature version of a full grown man. (Jason Clark) In addition to being dishonest (or flat out lying to reporters) he's hardly competent. Maybe Collier felt more comfortable with a man he could see eye to eye with as opposed to a woman he had to look up to. In Jason's case "PIO" stands for pocketsized information officer! Kudos to you Miss Lyons for having the guts to do what is right!

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    1. I just wanted to comment about why this person would attack someone's appearance in the blog site and how classless that is, this is cyber bullying at its best, the worst thing is it just makes Ms. Lyons look bad!

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    2. Yeah...I'm not sure how making fun of someone's height helps anything. I haven't learned anything except that "you" are not professional.

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  13. Hope she sues the vermin rats! Wish you the best Ms. Collier!

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  14. Just goes to show you that some employees are treated the same as inmates. I'm all for you in what ever you decide to do. TDCJ needs to fire ALL Committees and Executives and start from scratch with fresh new blood, more criminals work for TDCJ than are locked up. Some of the stuff they get away with is beyond me. No Justice in TDCJ

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    1. What cave do you live in? Turn on the TV, listen to the radio, get another job, then come back and provide a viewpoint and comment that has a marginal degree of viability. Such comments suggest that TDCJ is unique and vastly different from the rest of the world and employers, if you think that, your comment has significantly lessor value than what i thought it did.

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    2. If he lives in a cave then I must live in the cave next door, because he is spot on when he says that some employee's are treated like inmates. I agree with everything said and would like to add,TDCJ has fired more old timers that were great officers than you can shake a stick at.They promote officers that don't deserve it and they write up the ones that try to make the inmates do what they are suppose too.

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  15. I worked for the prison system many years ago, holding positions in other state agencies as well as in the private sector has revealed some clear realistic facts. (1)TDCJ is not perfect and has some great challenges. (2)Every state agency has the same problems and issues. (3) things are far worse for most of the private sector. (4)it is essential to possess the traits of TRUST, LOYALTY and COMMITMENT, regardless if your boss or peers have it.
    I didn't know Ms.Lyons nor did I know her boss or others for TDCJ, in the World that I live in, I have accepted the fact that NO JOB or Business is perfect, for those that seem to have all the answers Please tell me Where the perfect boss is and the perfect job, I still haven't found it in over 40 years...Try putting the Good Lord in your Life this has been my only refuge.

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    1. I have waitressed, bartended, done retail sales, MHMR w the state, and taught Jr High for 10 years. None of those were "perfect jobs", yet I was treated with more professionalism and respect in every single one of them than I get treated with this job. TRUST, LOYALTY, and COMMITMENT are hard to maintain when one gets called for Mandatory overtime on the day of their child's high school graduation. Also hard to maintain when one works a 8.45 hour shift with NO break, only to see rovers pulled from their post to make sure the offenders get outdoor Recreation that day. I have seen a CO get 9 months probation for their first ever disciplinary (late for work) and offenders only lose commissary and rec for ONE MONTH for a contraband case. I see it that is Admin treating their officers worse than the bosses treat offenders. Maybe no job or boss is perfect, but the issues at TDCJ and at my unit go deeper and darker than most.

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    2. I believe what your saying, but I don't believe it applies to the whole system. I like my shift and unit very much. I am 50 years old and this is the best job I have had. It depends on your unit and supervisors.

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  16. Bryan Collier, Deputy Director TDCJ, needs to resign for his illegal retaliation.

    Michelle has done an excellent job and was loyal to the agency for many years. She helped keep the agency open and in good standings with the public.

    It's too bad Collier never learned to read the agency's definition of a journalist or the Federal Whistleblower's Act. Contacting a union representative and a co-worker, who runs a blog, about illegal hourly wage issue (FLSA) and cc'ing it to a state senators and state representative, aren't issues an employer needs to discipline an employee over.

    This is clearly retaliation. Brad Livingston needs to break out the taxpayers checkbook and start writing Michelle Lyons a settlement check, while Collier writes his resignation letter.

    If Collier is not fired over this illegal retaliation, maybe it's time for Senator Whitmire to clean house, instead of giving them a chance like the last time they lied in his Committee. The sun might set on TDCJ because of personnel mismanagement. The Sunset Committee is revisiting TDCJ again because of the same issues. TDCJ has failed to meet the requirements of the last Sunset Review.

    I hope Senator Whitmire knows TDCJ upper administration tells employees the agency is messed up because of him, instead of manning up and taking responsibility for their own neglect. Accountability needs to be enforced.

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  17. Now there is an interesting statement... In fact I do tend to agree that God is capable of helping and healing any situation that he sees fit as myself am a loyal and dedicated Christian. However, I also believe that the "its bad everywhere" attitude is exactly the type of complacency that allows people at the top (like Collier) to continue to get away with whatever they want, regardless of what sector they operate in.

    While it may be accepted as commonplace to some, it is actually vital that people stand up for themselves and speak out against being bullied. If your child is being picked on at school you don't tell him or her "get used to it, some schools are worse."

    The "good ole boy" system has no place in our society in spite of how well it has worked out for those who have benefited from it historically.

    Ms. Lyons has been an asset to this agency for 11 years without incident. With a track record like that, Collett should have had the dignity expected of a man (I use the term loosly) in his position is expected and counseled her prior to taking such extreme action.

    On that note, I now also refer to the Lord and say, may God have mercy on his tiny little soul!

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    1. "Tiny little soul" - uffa, that was funny.

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  18. TDCJ breaks all labor laws.Agg.field bosses work many over time hours that are not paid for.Huntsville says no overtime and they will write you up for work not done. You are very limited on the hours in a day. Only so many inmates and working tractors.

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  19. I agree with respect to Collier's obligation to counsel her if she had provided "11 years of service without incident"

    The disciplinary policy its self clearly spells that out. It also states that disciplinary measures are intended to be "constructive" which was also ignored.

    There was clearly a hidden agenda here and only those at the top know of its intent.

    Kind of a stupid and rookie move on their part to pull this stunt on a person with the media resources of someone in Ms. Lyons position. She could probably shed a lot of light in places they wouldn't want it to shine!

    I hope they get what they deserve and I wish Ms. Lyons nothing but the best! The world needs more people like her.

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    1. I hear she knows alot of newspaper people.

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  20. I had the pleasure to meet Ms. Lyons in my past career with TDCJ-ID. she is the most unprofessional Lady I have meet within TDCJ-ID. It is a shame that they retaliated against her, as many of us have felt the retaliation and run off our jobs. I hope she sues the pants off TDCJ-ID for the harassment and retaliation she received. TDCJ-ID lost a good one, as they seem to keep running off the good ones and keep the bad apples. Being in a former high ranking position, I have seen allot of corruption in TDCJ-ID and was told to keep my mouth shut, when I did finally speak out, I to received retaliation and eventually lost my position and job within TDCJ-ID because I stood up. EEO's get sweep under the rug, corrupt UOF get swept under the rug, money being stolen again swept under the rug. It seem's if you are not as dirty as the higher up's and start uncovering stuff then they find a way to get rid of you. GOOD LUCK. Ms. Lyons we all who know you did the right thing will be praying for you.

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  21. meant to say professional lady not unprofessional. sorry for the error on that part. very professional lady

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  22. Sad to see Michelle go, Ive had the pleasure in the past to have met her and she has always up board about her ethics and work. I want to voice my support for her and what she has stood for all the past years. As Stated in the previous posts TDCJ has evolved into this monster where double standards and unethical behavior is the norm, not the exception. I personally have experienced this in my 20 years with the agency and fortunately have been able to weather the storm. I will be retiring soon, but I fear for the officers left behind, because there is a deluge of Officers who came into the system with me 18-22 years ago and they are fed up and abandoning ship as fast as they can retire. Most are not even talking about double dipping, they are done. Good Luck to You Ms Lyons and good luck to the Agency when it falls apart.

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  23. Senitors and top TDCJ brass go deer hunting at the Buffalo Ranch. They stay in the Mansion, get drunk and bring in strippers. Go look at all the deer blinds. I have photos at the pool, girls naked. They throw a big party. Were you invited, your tax dollars at work. Sorry no gray shirts.I called Sen. Whitmires office, some lady screaned my call and told her all the dirt on TDCJ. She said I should go to my Warden and let it work its way up the ladder. Even his office suc_s.

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  24. Yeah, I agree with that last comment about Whitmire not being the answer. While it may be true that both Livingston and Collier are both cowards and act like a couple of nervous little school girls whenever Whitmire is on the warpath, they are probably able to take comfort in this situation because it's an actual issue.

    Now if we were talking about something with less controversey like haircuts for our overworked, underpaid and critically understaffed CO's (who are also cheated out of pay for hours worked.) or last meals for death row inmates because of it's burdon on the taxpayers (as they are prepared in the unit kitchen by inmates with only food on hand) or consolodating the TDCJ offices to Austin (which would actually draw more from the budget for facility funding) then he would be on the front page of the Statesman makign big waves.

    Something like corruption or wrongdoing being uncovered is a little too far outside his realm of political expertise. The way they handle big issues like this is to wait for it to die down so that it can happen again when no one is looking. That's why so many who work for the agency have accepted the "you know how it is here" attitude.

    Instead of focusing on things that are of no consequence he really should be looking at why things like this happen, or why the units are dangerously understaffed, or countless other issues that have real impact. Who knows... maybe he will surprise us all and take a stand for something that matters, but I'm not holding my breath.

    Best of luck to you Miss Lyons! And good for you for having the courage to speak out for what is right and stand up for yourself in spite of the personal consequences you have had to endure because of it. I pray they get what's coming to them!

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  25. Always remember when your at the top there is only one way to fall.rather they give you a choice retirement with full benefits or else. Looks like the choice was or else.hats off to you good luck so when you buck is it worth the ride?

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  26. Someone should ask Kathy Shallcross about Bryan Collier, There was a big thing in the early 2000's about Parole Officers being forced to work overtime and not getting paid. The state got sued and the officers were paid back pay. Bryan Collier was over Parole at the time. Also his second in command was fired.

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    1. It might be difficult finding out what bar she's currenly living in.

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  27. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Your stupid why would say such stuff go get help you sick person. Better than that climb the highest mountain then jump do the world a favor

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    2. If you're going to call someone, "STUPID", perhaps you should try composing your response in a manner that does not appear to have been written by someone who is even more STUPID.

      Did you mean, "You're (not your) stupid.(period) (capital letter for new sentence) Why would (you) say such stuff? (question mark) (Capital letter for new sentence) Go get help you sick person. Better than that, (comma) climb the highest mountain and then jump. (period) (capital letter for new sentence) Do the world a favor. (period)

      By the way, what a nice thing to say to someone just because you disagree with them. Good job.

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    3. You must not have read the comment that was removed.

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    4. Holy crap. What did I miss?

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  28. I have been a state employee for over 18 years im just waiting on my twenty then i am gone this place has become the most miserable place there ever was to be an employee. when the rash of retirements start here very soon we wont be coming back to double dip. its just too miserable. the inmates truly have more say so than the officers the wardens are just pitiful in their management skills. its a joke . empower your poeple??? please these new breed of junior politicians micromanage every aspect of life you tell an inmate no they come tell you yes right in front of the inmate . a joke it is. wait till all the old hands are gone haha its going to be a riot and it wont be funny at all.

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  29. I have been a TDCJ-ID employee for 13 years.I have seen harrassment 1st hand.cause I was the one being harrassed.It's a pity that such a once fine agency has gone to what it has today.People don't care about the agency,they care about a paycheck.And it's sad because we are supposed to examples for the offenders to straighten themselves up.insted we are the brunt of their jokes on how hungover this boss looks or how one boss or ranking officer is hitting up on one of the prettier bosses.This agency is headed for a train wreck of unleveled porportions.If one of these units were to be taken over by the offenders,you would have another New Mexico on this states hands.Alot of people would be hurt or killed.And I hope to god these people can sleep at night knowing that they caused this by not paying attention to the problems in this agency.I also hope i can get my 20 done so i can retire from here without getting hurt or killed.I guess my message to TDCJ-ID is: GET YOURE ACT TOGETHER!CAUSE THE JUDGEMENT IS COMIN!

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  30. Yup mistreatment is what we receive in TDCJ department of corrections we get disciplanaries for not showing up for mandatory overtime, when an offender doesnt want to show up to work they get a case and with a small restriction that is bullshit this system is so fuckn corrupt a lot of officers complain about the way this system is oh but when we get hired they lie to us about getting 4 days on 4 days off oh and when we get paid the deductions from our payroll are far beyond idiocracy, when i got hired i told them i needed a unit that was close to my home town and the fuckn lie they come up with those are retirement units i mean what the fuck well then get those officers to fuckn retire dont keep them there for another 10 yrs all im sayin is we need to change this bullshit, TDCJ policies have to be rewritten by officers that work with offenders and know what happen inside the prison come on Texas why let this high chairmen intimidate us why keep quiet we are not slaves and by the way i thaught it was abolished so why do we have to work mandatory overtime we dont need to sue just raise political chaos and thats how these politicians will get undiscovered oh but we raise fire they try to cover it with water not no more well stand for justice and fight fire with fire and in the world of politics we all know what that means CHAOS so have it your way TDCJ board members we the people put you there and we the people can take you down so instead of threatning us by saying oh we are watching you or by trying to find a reason to fire us heres somethin for you all no more political chaos will happen so we the people cab be heard

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    1. Actually TBCJ board members are appointed by the governor, not elected. I will not even mention you're atrocious grammar and syntax.

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  31. I resigned today after 4 years of service as a CO. I can say that those four years were hell...I have worked in other state penal institutions and never have I experienced such sever staff shortages as I have seen in TX. When I signed on, we worked one block - 150 offenders. Now we do 2 blocks. Is that safe? No. If you were told to do twice the work for the same pay, how long would you put up with it?

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