Tryon aide admitted harassment
Tension grows between state agency, union
PERTH An aide at Tryon Residential Center pleaded guilty in April to harassment after he was recorded on videotape striking a male resident of the state youth facility while the boy was restrained, authorities confirmed Monday.
The aide, David H. Jackson, 50, of East Fulton Street, Gloversville, was suspended without pay in July pending an agency review of the case, said Edward Borges, director of communications at the state Office of Children and Family Services.
Borges said the video shows the boy sitting in a chair with his arms restrained and then Jackson sitting on the boy’s lap, holding the boy’s chin with one hand as he punches him in the face with the other hand.
A call to the Civil Service Employees Association union office at Tryon was not returned Monday. Jackson could not be reached for comment.
The incident, for which Jackson was fined $100 at his April 8 Perth Town Court appearance, was the latest development in growing tension between the state agency that operates Tryon and unions for the employees who say the state’s restrictive new rules for dealing with the troubled youth are creating a loose and dangerous atmosphere at the facility.
State Sen. Hugh T. Farley, R-Niskayuna, has already asked OCFS Commissioner Gladys Carrion to investigate union allegations that staff members are frequently attacked by center residents. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating allegations staff members violated the civil rights of residents. A parallel investigation conducted by the state Inspector General’s office has been turned over to DOJ, an agency spokeswoman said Monday.
Fulton County District Attorney Louise K. Sira said Monday it is apparent from DOJ contacts with her office that the federal probe focuses on the 2006 death of 15-year-old Tryon resident Darryl Thompson of New York City, who stopped breathing while being restrained by two staff members.
A Fulton County grand jury cleared the staffers, finding they used approved methods of restraint and noting that an autopsy attributed death to a heart arrhythmia. Sira said she was told the American Civil Liberties Union subsequently complained to DOJ.
But, Sira said there are no current complaints against staff members. She said Jackson was recorded on videotape, charged with harassment and pleaded guilty to it. She said there was no plea bargain and said the offense did not rise to the level of assault because there were no significant injuries. A harassment charge is a violation, the lowest level of criminal offense in the state.
While Jackson’s case may gain attention, Sira said, there has been no mention of the 10 to 15 Tryon residents bused to Perth Town Court last week to answer charges in a variety of misdemeanor and violation cases. She said the cases involve offenses against other residents and against staff members.
She said the number of such cases has risen sharply in the past year and will be one issue raised when she meets this week with Fulton County Sheriff Thomas J. Lorey and state police officials.
A related issue in that discussion, she said, will be what her office and law enforcement officials perceive as delayed reporting at OCFS of criminal allegations filed by both staff members and residents.
She said OCFS conducts its own investigations of allegations before passing them on law enforcement. She said the delays hinder police investigations at the facility.
“I prosecute cases when they bring me cases,” Sira said of OCFS. But, she said, prosecutions are often unnecessarily difficult because “the injuries are poorly substantiated and the case information is poorly reported to police.”
Borges said Monday he was not aware of Sira’s concerns and suggested she should share her views with the agency.
Sira said she will be doing so, in the form of a letter after her meeting later this week with law enforcement officials.
The grand jury that cleared the staffers in Thompson’s death formulated nine recommendations, mostly to improve emergency responses to Tryon. Sira said it is her understanding OCFS has not implemented all of the recommendations.