The troubled Hinds County Youth Detention Center has lost its second director in one year. Clifton Strong resigned July 20, only one month after he accepted the director position. Strong follows the previous director, Darron Farr, who resigned in March after managing the detention facility, also known as the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center, for two years.
Interim County Administrator Ray Bryant declined to comment on Strong's resignation, calling it a personnel issue, but Supervisor George Smith indicated that Strong's move may have come after warnings from county officials. Smith said that he spoke to Bryant by telephone after Strong quit.
"According to what I did know about (Strong), I was optimistic that he was going to make sure that (the facility) was run right," Smith said.
Before taking the Henley-Young position, Strong was director of facilities maintenance for the Oakley Training School, another juvenile facility in Raymond.
The executive assistant at Henley-Young, Toni Flanagan, is currently overseeing the center, as she did after Farr's resignation, Bryant said.
Supervisor Peggy Calhoun and Board President Robert Graham both declined to discuss Strong.
"That's a personnel issue, and I'm not going to comment on anything having to do with Clifton Strong," Graham said.
Farr's tenure with the detention center was marked by tension with Hinds County Youth Court Judge Bill Skinner. In 2008, the Board of Supervisors revoked Farr's authority over the detention center and gave it to Skinner. Then, in January 2009, the board voted 3-2 in an executive session to take authority back from Skinner, citing complaints about the facility's operation. In June 2009, after a rash of suicide attempts by juvenile detainees, Calhoun raised concerns that the facility suffered from inadequate supervision.
The center has also been the subject of intense scrutiny by the Mississippi Youth Justice Project, an advocacy group affiliated with the Southern Poverty Law Center. In November 2009, county supervisors approved a memorandum of understanding with the group in which the county agreed to maintain a set staff-to-detainee ration, discontinue the use of restraints and allow detainees more time outside their cells. The agreement also provides for regular monitoring visits by MYJP staff.
Bryant said that the county was searching for Strong's replacement but that it had no deadline for finding the center's next director.
The Henley-Young job is one of several county positions that have turned over in a highly visible manner in the past year. In November, the board voted 4-1 to hire Jimmie Lewis, the county's former director of permits and zoning, as emergency operations director, replacing Larry Fisher, who retired. The county's Assistant Director of Emergency Operations Ricky Moore also applied for the job. When the board passed him over, Moore retired.
Last month, Moore sued the county for racial discrimination. In a June 17 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Moore, who is white, alleges that "an African-American board member plainly stated to an employee of (the) Hinds County Board of Supervisors that (Moore) would not be promoted ... because of his race." Moore's suit also alleges that the board tailored the emergency-management job description for Lewis, who is African American.
The county has denied Moore's allegations, and a federal magistrate judge has set a conference-call hearing on the case for Aug. 23.
The position of county administrator has also been in limbo since March, when the board voted 3-2 during an executive session to fire Vern Gavin. Smith and Supervisor Phil Fisher opposed the move, with Fisher protesting the board's lack of notice. Gavin's employment was not on the March 1 meeting agenda. Bryant, who had been serving as director of the county's emergency medical services, took over as interim county administrator.
Graham placed the administrator position on the board's July 19 agenda, but he declined to bring the item up at the meeting.
Goodness...it's like a soap opera.....
Queen - between the State of Mississippi Legislators, Madison County Board of Supervisors, Hinds County Board of Supervisors, Jackson City Council - in regards to the people we elect and put in place to maintain our civil infrastructure in this state and in our city? It's all drama!
Why was this person hired and not this person? Campaign dollars, family friends, church members, fraternal ties, it all boil down to who you know and not what you know! Therefor, giving you our current problems in regards to civil servants in the State of Mississippi.
- Duan C.