Texas Board of Criminal Justice




    Some State Agency Chiefs Get Hefty Raises

    June 5, 2013

    Some executives to get double-digit increases, while most state employees in line for 3 percent hikes.

    The Legislature gave most state employees a 3 percent pay raise over the next two years, but top state agency executives got much larger pay hikes — some that are much more than many of their employees make in annual take-home pay.

    Criminal justice director Brad Livingston soon will be making $260,000, up more than $73,000 from his current salary — a nearly 40 percent increase.

    Some State Agency Chiefs Get Hefty Raises

    Senate Panel Requires New Certification From Nominees
    Action follows revelation that prison agency’s chairman tried to get sister-in-law to join his board

    By Mike Ward - American-Statesman Staff
    Posted: May 6, 2013

    Oliver Bell, chairman of the
    Texas Board of Criminal Justice.

    Stung by the recent revelation that the chairman of the state prison’s board tried to get his sister-in-law appointed to serve with him, the Senate Nominations Committee on Monday voted to increase the verification of background information it gets before deciding whether to confirm gubernatorial nominees. The panel voted unanimously to require for the first time that all nominees provide up-to-date information on their applications and personal financial statements, and certify in writing that all the information is correct, before they will be considered for approval by the Senate.

    The change took effect immediately, and immediately ensnared the reappointment of San Antonio businessman Terrell McCombs to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice after he acknowledged he had not listed all of his business interests on his paperwork.

    “We are not going to move his nomination forward until he corrects it,” said Committee Chairman Glenn Hegar, R-Katy.

    Prison officials promised that McCombs’ paperwork would be corrected quickly.

    The changes come after it was revealed that the sister-in-law of Oliver Bell, chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, was nominated to serve on the same board. She was also a former business associate of Bell’s.

    Outraged senators immediately held up the nomination of business consultant Annette Raggette of Austin, and Gov. Rick Perry promptly withdrew her nomination. He instead nominated Mission attorney Thomas Wingate, a former state district judge.

    Under law, gubernatorial nominees for state boards and commissions must be confirmed by the Senate. Bell on Monday for the first time publicly broke his public silence on the matter, insisting that he erred in proposing his sister-in-law for the post. He noted she had previously served on two other state boards.

    “I have to take responsibility,” Bell told the committee. “No excuse. I should have been paying more attention.”

    McCombs, who appeared before the committee along with Wingate and Highland Park attorney Eric Gambrell, who was up for reappointment to the prison board, was asked by Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, about two business entities that did not list on his application. He said both mistakes were “oversights on my part.”

    Hegar said the applications and financial statements must be up to date and include all the required information. “The burden needs to be on them to make sure their information is correct and up-to-date,” he said.

    Other committee members agreed, quickly approving the new rule and a requirement that nominees must certify in writing that their paperwork is accurate and complete as of the date they are nominated.

    The committee then recommended that the Senate confirm Gambrell and Wingate, but not McCombs — just yet.

    “He will remain pending until our next meeting,” Hegar said.

    In investigating the Raggette nomination, senators said they were disturbed to find out that her application and others submitted by nominees had not been fully filled out, that some information was more than a year old and that many nominees’ backgrounds had not been verified or only undergone a cursory check.

    Raggett’s relation to Bell became public only after a Google search turned up a Louisiana obituary of her mother, noting that she was Bell’s sister-in-law. Raggette listed Bell as a reference and noted “bro. in law” next to his name, but that notation was obliterated on copies of her application that were forwarded to senators because it was written in a margin.

    She checked “no” on the application form when asked if she was related to any state official.

    Senate Panel Requires New Certification From Nominees

    Perry Withdraws Texas Prison Board Nomination

    By Ross Ramsey
    April 24, 2013

    The Texas Tribune Festival 2012 Opening Session: A conversation with Gov. Rick Perry and Evan Smith, Sept. 21, 2012.

    Gov. Rick Perry withdrew his nomination of Annette Raggette of Austin to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice on Wednesday.

    “Concerns were raised about potential conflicts of interest, and our office chose to withdraw her name out of an abundance of caution and move forward with a new appointment,” said Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for Perry. “We hope to have a new appointee before the committee as soon as possible.”

    Raggette was once employed by Oliver Bell, chairman of that board, raising questions among some of the senators who would have to confirm the nomination — concerns that prompted a story in the Austin American-Statesman. The Senate Nominations Committee postponed a vote on her appointment earlier this week.

    “I’m not surprised because I think there are a lot of concerns. It surprises me that the governor’s office doesn’t do a fuller review,” said Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, a member of the Senate Nominations Committee. “It appears to us there was a business relationship and we have reason to believe there was a family relationship. We thought brother-in-law deals were a thing of the past.”

    Editor's note: This story was updated to include Sen. Sylvia Garcia's comments.

    Perry Withdraws Texas Prison Board Nomination

    April 21, 2013

    Prison Board Appointee’s Business Connection Questioned

    By Mike Ward
    American-Statesman Staff

    Questions are being raised about Gov. Rick Perry’s newest appointment to the Texas prison system’s governing board because she is a longtime business associate of the current chairman.

    Officials confirmed that Annette Raggette, who owns a management consulting firm, worked for years for Oliver Bell, chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice — a business tie that would be a rarity for two members of the nine-member prison board.

    Though business ties between members of state boards used to be common in decades past, it has become rare in recent years, partly to avoid criticism about cronyism and to avoid the perception of voting blocks on agency boards — or that one might be beholden to another on important votes — that might compromise members’ independence in operating huge state operations such as the prison agency, the nation’s largest state corrections system with a $4 billion budget.

    Raggette’s LinkedIn profile indicates she is vice president of Bell’s company, but prison officials said the online résumé is out of date. The online profile and prison officials say she worked for another Bell firm from 2003-2009.

    Neither Raggette nor Bell returned phone calls seeking comment.

    Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, whose committee oversees the state’s prison system, said the business connection between Bell and Raggette was “not smart.”

    “I would suggest that this is an important job, an important board, and you shouldn’t have someone who is an employee or a former employee of the board chairman serving under him,” Whitmire said. “Without knowing anything else, the perception is certainly bad.”

    Raggette’s nomination is scheduled to be reviewed Monday at a Senate Nominations Committee meeting, the first step in Senate confirmation of gubernatorial appointments. “I would imagine someone will realize this is not a good idea,” he said.

    In a statement to the American-Statesman, prison spokesman John Hurt said Raggette had worked with Bell “previously in the business world and is a former senior staff member of his old firm Oliver Bell & Associates Inc.” But he said Raggette “has had her own human resources consulting firm since December 2010, the Crescent Group, based in Austin.”

    “Ms. Raggette is not an employee of Mr. Bell’s current firm, Oliver Bell Inc., based in Houston,” Hurt said.

    Bell is a human resources management consultant who operated an Austin-based firm, Oliver Bell & Associates Inc. He has previously said he moved his firm, now Oliver Bell Inc., to Houston.

    Raggette’s LinkedIn profile lists her as president of Crescent Group and vice president of Oliver Bell Inc. She is also listed as vice president of Oliver Bell Inc. on that firm’s website.

    Bell has served on the criminal justice board since February 2004 and has been chairman for the past five years.

    Because the Legislature is in session, the Senate must confirm Raggette’s appointment — Perry just nominated her this month — for it to become effective.

    While most nominations in the past few years have routinely been approved, two were not — and those nominees either withdrew or did not serve.

    House Corrections Committee Chairman Tan Parker, R-Denton, could not immediately be reached for comment. Other lawmakers said they intend to ask questions about the nomination, and will withhold judgment until they get answers.

    “It’s our understanding that she previously worked for him, but she does not currently,” said Allison Castle, a Perry spokeswoman. “She owns her own consulting firm.”

    Castle said Bell was listed by Raggette as a reference on her application form.

    Prison Board Appointee’s Business Connection Questioned


    Texas Prison Board Hears About Inmate Health Care

    Published February 10, 2012

    AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas prison board is meeting in Austin on Friday, and the sticky topic of inmate health care coverage likely up for discussion.

    The Department of Criminal Justice and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have been negotiating to extend the school's contract with the prison system through the next fiscal year. UTMB provides health care to about 80 percent of the state's more than 150,000 inmates but insists it's losing money on the deal and won't use school resources to cover the shortfall.

    Prison system Executive Director Brad Livingston says the agency is working with the health-care provider, lawmakers and the governor's office to ensure inmate health care for 2013 and beyond. However, he says the agency will be prepared if a transition of services is needed.

    Texas Prison Board Hears About Inmate Health Care

    FEBRUARY 03, 2012

    TDCJ Board Chair: Future Prison Closures Possible

    Reader Texas Maverick emails to point out this passage from the Board Minutes (pdf) of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's August 2011 meeting:

    Chairman [Oliver] Bell commented that the closure of the Central Unit has been a positive story and stated he was pleased the current trends have allowed the board and the TDCJ to be able to close a unit. The Central Unit has been studied for closure for the last six to eight years. Crime rates are down and offender populations are relatively flat. If the trends continue, Chairman Bell stated it might be possible more prisons could close in the future.

    TDCJ executive director Brad Livinsgston told the board that "the closure of the Central Unit is a success story that the TDCJ can tout." I'm glad that's the board's perception. Given the budget situation, they'll need more of the same in 2013 to avoid prison costs spurring significant tax hikes.


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