House Minority Leader Gail McCann-Beatty (D-Kansas City) wants Republican Governor-Elect Eric Greitens to conduct a nationwide search for a new Department of Corrections director. Her call follows the Pitch.com’s investigation of dozens of allegations of harassment and retaliation against corrections employees that have cost the state millions of dollars in settlements.
Missouri Corrections Officers Association executive director Gary Gross tells Missourinet the state has qualified officials who could serve in the department.
“They need a whole new administration because anyone that’s currently there that’s in the high positions are part of the problem,” says Gross.
George Lombardi has served as the department’s director under Governor Jay Nixon (D).
Gross says the allegations have been going on for years, but on a much smaller scale.
“A lot of people don’t realize, one problem I have, if I go to the legislature with these issues, their response is to call the director of Corrections. Then the director of Corrections will simply play me off as a disgruntled bargaining unit leader and former employee,” says Gross. “For a period of time there, we had a different director and things were going pretty well. If you have 12,000 employees, you are going to have a certain amount of issues. It’s just not avoidable, but as long as you have a director and people in place that are addressing them and taking care of them before they ever get to the court system, then that’s fine.”
Gross wouldn’t elaborate on which institutions have the most allegations in question or where the more severe cases are coming from, but he says there are some facilities that are more mismanaged than others.
“A lot of it boils down to staff treatment. I think the culture within the department needs to change towards staff. I think that can happen if we get the right people in there. I don’t think that needs to be someone from out of state. I think we have people here that are quite capable of that and very aware of it and also that know exactly where the problems are,” says Gross.
He wouldn’t mention names of people he thinks could serve in the department’s top capacities but he says he’s talking with Greitens’ team that is handling appointments.
Beatty’s letter to Greitens says the department has been named in more than sixty lawsuits, with more pending, in which employees allege being subjected to things like humiliation, groping, poisoning and physical assault from supervisors and co-workers to engage in sexual acts.
Greitens’ office has not returned Missourinet’s inquiry for a response.