Law:Title 3. Facilities And Services For Children. Subtitle A. Facilities For Children from Chapter 64. Office Of Independent Ombudsman Of The Texas Youth Commission (Texas)

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Subtitle A. Facilities For Children

Contents

Chapter 64. Office Of Independent Ombudsman Of The Texas Youth Commission

Subchapter A. General Provisions

Section 64.001.  Definitions.

In this chapter:

(1)  "Commission" means the Texas Youth Commission.

(2)  "Independent ombudsman" means the individual who has been appointed under this chapter to the office of independent ombudsman.

(3)  "Office" means the office of independent ombudsman created under this chapter.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.



Section 64.002.  Establishment; Purpose.

The office of independent ombudsman is a state agency established for the purpose of investigating, evaluating, and securing the rights of the children committed to the commission, including a child released under supervision before final discharge.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.



Section 64.003.  Independence.

(a) The independent ombudsman in the performance of its duties and powers under this chapter acts independently of the commission.

(b)  Funding for the independent ombudsman is appropriated separately from funding for the commission.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.



Subchapter B. Appointment And Management Of Office

Section 64.051.  Appointment Of Independent Ombudsman.

(a) The governor shall appoint the independent ombudsman with the advice and consent of the senate for a term of two years, expiring February 1 of odd-numbered years.

(b)  A person appointed as independent ombudsman is eligible for reappointment but may not serve more than three terms in that capacity.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.



Section 64.052.  Assistants.

The independent ombudsman may hire assistants to perform, under the direction of the independent ombudsman, the same duties and exercise the same powers as the independent ombudsman.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.



Section 64.053.  Conflict Of Interest.

(a) A person may not serve as independent ombudsman or as an assistant to the independent ombudsman if the person or the person's spouse:

(1)  is employed by or participates in the management of a business entity or other organization receiving funds from the commission;

(2)  owns or controls, directly or indirectly, any interest in a business entity or other organization receiving funds from the commission; or

(3)  uses or receives any amount of tangible goods, services, or funds from the commission.

(b)  A person may not serve as independent ombudsman or as an assistant to the independent ombudsman if the person or the person's spouse is required to register as a lobbyist under Chapter 305, Government Code, because of the person's activities for compensation on behalf of a profession related to the operation of the commission.

(c)  A person may not serve as independent ombudsman or as an assistant to the independent ombudsman if the person or the person's spouse is an officer, employee, manager, or paid consultant of a Texas trade association in the field of criminal or juvenile justice.

(d)  For the purposes of this section, a Texas trade association is a nonprofit, cooperative, and voluntarily joined association of business or professional competitors in this state designed to assist its members and its industry or profession in dealing with mutual business or professional problems and in promoting their common interest.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.



Section 64.054.  Sunset Provision.

(a) The office is subject to review under Chapter 325, Government Code (Texas Sunset Act), but is not abolished under that chapter.  The office shall be reviewed during the periods in which the Texas Youth Commission is reviewed.

(b)  Notwithstanding Subsection (a), the Sunset Advisory Commission shall focus its review of the office on compliance with requirements placed on the office by legislation enacted by the 81st Legislature, Regular Session, 2009, that becomes law.  This subsection expires September 1, 2011.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.

Amended by:

Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1187, Sec. 2.001, eff. June 19, 2009.



Section 64.055.  Report.

(a) The independent ombudsman shall submit on a quarterly basis to the governor, the lieutenant governor, the state auditor, and each member of the legislature a report that is both aggregated and disaggregated by individual facility and describes:

(1)  the work of the independent ombudsman;

(2)  the results of any review or investigation undertaken by the independent ombudsman, including reviews or investigation of services contracted by the commission; and

(3)  any recommendations that the independent ombudsman has in relation to the duties of the independent ombudsman.

(b)  The independent ombudsman shall immediately report to the governor, the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the house of representatives, the state auditor, and the office of the inspector general of the commission any particularly serious or flagrant:

(1)  case of abuse or injury of a child committed to the commission;

(2)  problem concerning the administration of a commission program or operation;

(3)  problem concerning the delivery of services in a facility operated by or under contract with the commission; or

(4)  interference by the commission with an investigation conducted by the office.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.



Section 64.056.  Communication And Confidentiality.

(a) The commission shall allow any child committed to the commission to communicate with the independent ombudsman or an assistant to the ombudsman.  The communication:

(1)  may be in person, by mail, or by any other means; and

(2)  is confidential and privileged.

(b)  The records of the independent ombudsman are confidential, except that the independent ombudsman shall:

(1)  share with the office of inspector general of the commission a communication with a child that may involve the abuse or neglect of the child; and

(2)  disclose its nonprivileged records if required by a court order on a showing of good cause.

(c)  The independent ombudsman may make reports relating to an investigation public after the investigation is complete but only if the names of all children, parents, and employees are redacted from the report and remain confidential.

(d)  The name, address, or other personally identifiable information of a person who files a complaint with the office of independent ombudsman, information generated by the office of independent ombudsman in the course of an investigation, and confidential records obtained by the office of independent ombudsman are confidential and not subject to disclosure under Chapter 552, Government Code, except that the information and records, other than confidential information and records concerning a pending law enforcement investigation or criminal action, may be disclosed to the appropriate person if the office determines that disclosure is:

(1)  in the general public interest;

(2)  necessary to enable the office to perform the responsibilities provided under this section; or

(3)  necessary to identify, prevent, or treat the abuse or neglect of a child.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.



Section 64.057.  Promotion Of Awareness Of Office.

The independent ombudsman shall promote awareness among the public and the children committed to the commission of:

(1)  how the office may be contacted;

(2)  the purpose of the office; and

(3)  the services the office provides.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.



Section   64.058.  Rulemaking Authority.

(a) The office by rule shall establish policies and procedures for the operations of the office of independent ombudsman.

(b)  The office and the commission shall adopt rules necessary to implement Section 64.060, including rules that establish procedures for the commission to review and comment on reports of the office and for the commission to expedite or eliminate review of and comment on a report due to an emergency or a serious or flagrant circumstance described by Section 64.055(b).

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.

Amended by:

Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1187, Sec. 2.002, eff. June 19, 2009.



Section 64.059.  Authority Of State Auditor.

The office is subject to audit by the state auditor in accordance with Chapter 321, Government Code.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.



Section 64.060.  Review And Format Of Reports.

(a) The office shall accept, both before and after publication, comments from the commission concerning the following types of reports published by the office under this chapter:

(1)  the office's quarterly report under Section 64.055(a);

(2)  reports concerning serious or flagrant circumstances under Section 64.055(b); and

(3)  any other formal reports containing findings and making recommendations concerning systemic issues that affect the commission.

(b)  The commission may not submit comments under Subsection (a) after the 30th day after the date the report on which the commission is commenting is published.

(c)  The office shall ensure that reports described by Subsection (a) are in a format to which the commission can easily respond.

(d)  After receipt of comments under this section, the office is not obligated to change any report or change the manner in which the office performs the duties of the office.

Added by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1187, Sec. 2.003, eff. June 19, 2009.



Section 64.061.  Complaints.

(a) The office shall maintain a system to promptly and efficiently act on complaints filed with the office that relate to the operations or staff of the office.  The office shall maintain information about parties to the complaint, the subject matter of the complaint, a summary of the results of the review or investigation of the complaint, and the disposition of the complaint.

(b)  The office shall make information available describing its procedures for complaint investigation and resolution.

(c)  The office shall periodically notify the complaint parties of the status of the complaint until final disposition.

Added by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1187, Sec. 2.003, eff. June 19, 2009.



Subchapter C. Duties And Powers

Section 64.101.  Duties And Powers.

(a) The independent ombudsman shall:

(1)  review the procedures established by the commission and evaluate the delivery of services to children to ensure that the rights of children are fully observed;

(2)  review complaints filed with the independent ombudsman concerning the actions of the commission and investigate each complaint in which it appears that a child may be in need of assistance from the independent ombudsman;

(3)  conduct investigations of complaints, other than complaints alleging criminal behavior, if the office determines that:

(A)  a child committed to the commission or the child's family may be in need of assistance from the office; or

(B)  a systemic issue in the commission's provision of services is raised by a complaint;

(4)  review or inspect periodically the facilities and procedures of any institution or residence in which a child has been placed by the commission, whether public or private, to ensure that the rights of children are fully observed;

(5)  provide assistance to a child or family who the independent ombudsman determines is in need of assistance, including advocating with an agency, provider, or other person in the best interests of the child;

(6)  review court orders as necessary to fulfill its duties;

(7)  recommend changes in any procedure relating to the treatment of children committed to the commission;

(8)  make appropriate referrals under any of the duties and powers listed in this subsection; and

(9)  supervise assistants who are serving as advocates in their representation of children committed to the commission in internal administrative and disciplinary hearings.

(b)  The independent ombudsman may apprise persons who are interested in a child's welfare of the rights of the child.

(c)  To assess if a child's rights have been violated, the independent ombudsman may, in any matter that does not involve alleged criminal behavior, contact or consult with an administrator, employee, child, parent, expert, or any other individual in the course of its investigation or to secure information.

(d)  Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the independent ombudsman may not investigate alleged criminal behavior.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.



Section 64.102.  Treatment Of Commission Employees Who Cooperate With Independent Ombudsman.

The commission may not discharge or in any manner discriminate or retaliate against an employee who in good faith makes a complaint to the office of independent ombudsman or cooperates with the office in an investigation.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.



Section 64.103.  Training.

The independent ombudsman shall attend annual sessions, including the training curriculum for juvenile correctional officers required under Section 61.0356, and may participate in other appropriate professional training.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.



Section 64.104.  Memorandum Of Understanding.

(a) The office and the commission shall enter into a memorandum of understanding concerning:

(1)  the most efficient manner in which to share information with one another; and

(2)  the procedures for handling overlapping monitoring duties and activities performed by the office and the commission.

(b)  The memorandum of understanding entered into under Subsection (a), at a minimum, must:

(1)  address the interaction of the office with that portion of the commission that conducts an internal audit under Section 61.0331;

(2)  address communication between the office and the commission concerning individual situations involving children committed to the commission and how those situations will be documented and handled;

(3)  contain guidelines on the office's role in relevant working groups and policy development decisions at the commission;

(4)  ensure opportunities for sharing information between the office and the commission for the purposes of assuring quality and improving programming within the commission; and

(5)  preserve the independence of the office by authorizing the office to withhold information concerning matters under active investigation by the office from the commission and commission staff and to report the information to the governor.

Added by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1187, Sec. 2.004, eff. June 19, 2009.



Subchapter D. Access To Information

Section 64.151.  Access To Information Of Governmental Entities.

(a) The commission shall allow the independent ombudsman access to its records relating to the children committed to the commission.

(b)  The Department of Public Safety shall allow the independent ombudsman access to the juvenile justice information system established under Subchapter B, Chapter 58, Family Code.

(c)  A local law enforcement agency shall allow the independent ombudsman access to its records relating to any child in the care or custody of the commission.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.



Section 64.152.  Access To Information Of Private Entities.

The independent ombudsman shall have access to the records of a private entity that relate to a child committed to the commission.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 263, Sec. 57, eff. June 8, 2007.


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