More cleanup needed at commitment center

December 20, 2012 

Taxpayers in this state are paying a heavy price to maintain the center for dangerous sexual predators housed on McNeil Island.

The cost to keep the state’s Special Commitment Center open runs about $170,000 per year for each of the 297 sex offenders incarcerated there.

There’s mounting evidence, some of it known to state officials for years, that as many as 85 of the state employees tasked with keeping the inmates under control have gamed the system at taxpayers’ expense by abusing overtime and paid-leave policies.

In one particularly egregious case, two employees were paid $32,000 for work they didn’t perform, according to a Seattle Times investigative report published Sunday.

What makes the payroll and sick-leave cheating even more galling is the fact that the state Auditor’s Office has known about the employee misconduct since the summer of 2010 and has yet to complete an audit of the SCC workplace.

It’s time to wrap up the probe and refer any possible criminal conduct to the state Attorney General’s Office for possible criminal charges. It’s also time to try to recoup state money paid for work that wasn’t performed.

Granted, the Special Commitment Center is a volatile, highly stressful workplace that undoubtedly presents daily challenges for the state employees.

But that doesn’t justify some of the cavalier behavior, including submittal of phony notes from the doctor to cover up missed days at work or time spent on the job viewing pornography on work computers.

Some managers at the center are culpable as well. For instance, one manager issued a falsified report about allegations of verbal abuse by an employee.

Since January, the center has suspended four employees for job violations, fired eight employees and issued letters of reprimand to 26 others.

Clearly the housecleaning isn’t over yet, not to mention the task of holding employees accountable for their actions.

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