The San Antonio Express-News had a revealing story yesterday reporting that John Reynolds, long-time campaign manager and friend to indicted now ex-Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez, pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft in conjunction with his role in the Premier Management bribery scandal.
According to the article, Reynolds
"told Premier to pay the equivalent of 1 percent of commissary sales to Lopez's campaign fund and give three payments of $7,500 each that Reynolds said were donations to the Optimists, when, in fact, the money went into his own bank accounts.
Williamson testified that he called Reynolds this past spring, as the investigation was heating up, and asked him for receipts for the three $7,500 donations.
Williamson said there was dead silence until John Reynolds stated, 'You're killing me; you're killing me,' at which time Ian Williamson claimed it was then that he realized that John Reynolds had never delivered the donations," according to court documents.
At one point, Williamson stated, Reynolds demanded a consulting fee of $5,014. When Williamson asked why he shouldn't write a check for a round $5,000, he said Reynolds replied: "that $5,000 looked too funny."
Other filings by the district attorney's office have shown checks made out to Reynolds' accounts and signed by Michael LeBlanc, who is an owner of Premier along with his brother Patrick, and by Chris Burch, who replaced Williamson as Premier's CEO."
Sheriff Lopez recently pleaded no contest to receiving an inappropriate $10,000 trip to Costa Rica paid for by Premier. Premier ended their contract with the County after the scandal broke. As we’ve noted, Premier Management is owned by Pat and Michael LeBlanc, owners of private prison firm LCS Corrections.
As part of his guilty plea, Reynolds will be required to speak openly to investigators about all of the business dealings of Premier, the LeBlanc brothers, and LCS Corrections, amongst other companies he was involved in.
Our previous coverage on the Bexar County scandal:
And from Grits for Breakfast:
The Mineral Wells Index reported that local officials issued reimbursement requests for responding to the prison riot at the privately managed pre-parole facility in town. According to reports, the Mineral Wells Police Department and the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Department submitted requests to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), asking for reimbursement for their officers’ overtime as well as the damage to a police patrol car.
Mineral Wells Police Chief Jerry White said they are requesting reimbursement for 42 hours and 36 minutes of overtime that were accrued between the additional dispatcher and 14 officers that were called in to assist. The request for reimbursement for personnel totaled $1,543.36.
Additional costs include replacing the rear window of a police car damaged during the riot to the tune of $260. According to reports, local officials had to respond to other riots as well and in 2005 requested $1,780.85.
It also appears that officials may not be getting reimbursed completely for the expenses incurred. For example, a request issued by Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer did not include itemizations for his time, the chief deputy and four deputies who were on-duty at the time and responded to the riot.
Many times these extra costs are not considered when lawmakers decide to contract out incarceration to private companies like CCA. Considering all possible costs should challenge lawmakers not to transfer responsibility of incarcerating prisoners to for-profit corporations.
As Nicole reported earlier this month, the scandal involving the indicted and now-resigned Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez receiving illegal gifts from jail commissary company Premier Management seems to be growing.
Premier’s owners are Pat and Michael LeBlanc, Louisiana businessmen who also own the private prison company LCS Corrections. The bribery scandal now appears to have spread to Nueces County (which includes Corpus Christi) and Kleberg County, where private commissary and future detention contracts may have been influenced with similar inappropriate gifts.
Pat LeBlanc is currently running for Louisiana state House of Representatives on a platform as a “pro-business, pro-life, law and order Republican” who is a “strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment, adamantly opposes illegal immigration, and is opposed to any state sponsored attempts to expand gambling into Lafayette Parish.” (Interestingly, it looks like Premier Management is not on Pat’s list of business experiences…)
So, who is LCS Corrections and what are their interests in Texas? According to their website, LCS is
“an industry leader in the development and operation of privatized correctional facilities. The company offers a complete range of prison and correctional related services to local, state, and federal agencies.”
Well, an industry leader might be a bit of a stretch. According to our map of private prisons in Texas, LCS currently operates three detention centers in south Texas (compared to nearly 20 operated by GEO Group and nearly 15 by CCA). LCS also has a handful of prisons in Louisiana and at least one in Alabama.
The company’s record in Texas is far from seamless as well. According to list of private prison incidents, LCS prisons in Texas have experienced the following problems:
Brooks County Detention Center (Fallfurrias, TX)
- An immigrant detainee escaped from Brooks County Detention Center; the resulting manhunt involved over 100 officers from the Brooks County Sheriff’s Department, the Department of Public Safety, the Border Patrol, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and the local fire department (2004)
East Hidalgo Detention Center (La Villa, TX)
- Five undocumented immigrants and a former police officer escaped from the privately run South Texas jail. The escapees were alleged members of the drug gang Raza Unida charged with drug trafficking crimes (2006).
- The facility was repeatedly found in noncompliance with state standards. An inspection conducted eight days after six prisoners escaped cited the prison for employing too few guards, adding an unauthorized number of bunks, and keeping unlicensed guards on the payroll.
- (2006) A prison guard and two other people were arrested for aiding in the escape of six prisoners from the facility (2006).
- An 18-year-old guard overseeing the six prisoners who escaped from the correctional facility had been on the job less than three months and had not yet undergone a training course mandated for Texas jailers. The guard reported being overpowered by inmates. (2006)
We’ll keep you updated on news about LCS and the Premier management as it comes to us.
KCEN-TV is reporting that McClennan County Officials are looking for alternatives to jail crowding that include electronic monitoring to reduce costs.
McLennan County Commissioner, Ray Meadows says the proposal could save the county $800,000. When the county jail is filled to capacity inmates are brought to the Civigenics Detention Center. It’s estimated that the county has 100 inmates there, but of course they have to pay for that. It’s estimated they pay $1.2 million per year. …"If we could do it with an ankle bracelet, through electronic monitoring is a better … possibly we could save the county $800,000." McLennan County Commissioner Ray Meadows said.
Meadows couldn't be more right. County officials and jail administrators can control the number of individuals cycling in and out of the jail by implementing programs like electronic monitoring. Supervising defendants in the community maintains public safety while minimizing incarceration expenditures.
Other counties experiencing similar problems should follow McClennan County's lead and put into practice programs that free up county jail space while protecting the public. Other programs counties could consider include jail diversion for substance abuse defendants and low-cost personal bond programs for low-level, nonviolent jail detainees.
County and city officials like the sheriff, district attorney, judges, and police chief have the ability to control the county jail population. What is lacking is the innovative leadership to implement such methods in many counties around the state.