A state audit of a Dallas County juvenile facility describes juveniles "doing whatever they wanted."
The audit found five boys at the Lyle B. Medlock Youth Treatment Center locked up for sex offenses were engaging in sex acts at the facility. It also found supervisors were not watching the juveniles and administrators unaware of what was happening at the treatment center.
In March, some residents of the center told their parents about juveniles engaging in inappropriate sexual activity. Those parents told Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.
“I approached both administration and staff in an open meeting and basically was lied to,” Price said.
Price asked the State Office of Independent Ombudsman to investigate. Their audit found supervisors were in the office watching football, on phones or reading while juveniles were engaging in sexual activity.
Dallas County Juvenile Director Dr. Terry Smith said she “absolutely did not” know about the incidents at the time they were occurring and her staff should have informed her.
“Absolutely, absolutely and they have in the past, so I’m not clear as to why they didn’t this time,” Smith said. “There’s no excuse for the way that was handled. I wish we had someone who was strong enough to come forward and say, ‘Look this is what’s going on, these kids aren’t being supervised.’”
Price says the people at the facility are the problem.
“When you put people in place that are mediocre and you basically subscribe to mediocrity, then that’s what happens,” Price said.
Smith was already leaving the county after seven years as juvenile director before this scandal became public. She says she plans to right the wrong before she's gone.
“You can’t be on the cellphone and watch a football game and have more interest in them than the kids you're paid to supervise,” Smith said.
Smith says as soon as she knew what was happening she took action, not only about the lack of supervision, but other issues at Medlock. Price said he's concerned the new measures don’t go far enough and he plans to keep asking questions.
Smith's official time in Dallas County ends March 31, 2018.