Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Senator Whitmire makes statement to Backgate regarding ex-TDCJ PIO Michelle Lyons
By Doug Glass, Backgate Website
Weeks after our last story regarding the departure of TDCJ public information officer Michelle Lyons, and how it was facilitated by the agency hierarchy and her firing back with a federal lawsuit, State Senator John Whitmire has once again spoken. Lyons, who was allegedly targeted and unfairly disciplined by the agency after what she states was whistle blowing, and doing the right thing, stated that she was told by agency admin not to funnel any information while she was PIO to Whitmire's office. Whitmire serves as the chairman of the Senate's Criminal Justice Committee and ultimately oversees the agency as far as legislative powers go.
Weeks after Lyons was no longer employed by the agency, a reporter from a Houston based press outlet sat down with Whitmire for another story, but mentioned the ordeal with Lyons. Whitmire allegedly stated to that reporter that Lyons "should have been fired years ago" and that he himself had witnessed her during a meeting he attended being " rude, and disinterested while smacking her gum." Well, of course we went to Lyons for her side of the issue. Lyons says the only meeting she ever attended with Whitmire was at a local Houston news shoot and story at the Carol Vance unit in Sugarland that dealt with a church based program. Whitmire was present, but not offender family members. When we contacted Whitmire for his take, he stood his ground. He stated in a voice mail phone message to the Backgate that Michelle was rude to the offender family members as she was disinterested and acted as if she didn't want to be there.
When we spoke to his office prior to his phone call, we let him know that Ms. Lyons found his account of the ordeal not only untrue, but slanderous. In his response to us via voice mail, Whitmire adds that he stands by his statements regarding Ms. Lyons, and at one point stated " bring it on" (legally if need be) in regards to Lyon's claim that he was slanderous in his account. He left no mention as to whether or not he actually stated that she should have been fired "way back." Ms. Lyons did state that she recalls to have been ill during that meeting at the Vance unit, and that she had high fever. She further stated that she was never chastised by her supervisor (Bryan Collier) who was also present at the meeting and never knew she was seen as rude.
It seems to be a stalemate, but at least we have the story as represented by both sides. We don't know first hand, and have no dog in that fight. If he did state that she should have been fired long ago, he was out of line to state that publicly in any regard. In the end, I believe like most that TDCJ did harass and retaliate against Lyons due to her cooperation with this website in providing public information as we requested it, and by reporting a time keeping issue within the department. We supplied the information she provided us, as do many other information outlets, to thousands of people all over the state. Social media is the new TV, print and radio news. Senator Whitmire has long been an Alli of this website and has assisted in many ways over the years. Although we would like to give him the benefit of the doubt in this instance, a bit more investigation should have been conducted by his office into why TDCJ wants him out of the loop, rather then why Lyons acted disinterested in hearing an offender's family speak at a photo op. I mean after all, he is the Senate lead over Criminal Justice, and the agency has bigger corrupted fish to fry.