One thing that political candidates sometimes like to promise their constituents is that they’ll “clean up” the current situation, whatever that happens to be. They, in an attempt to win votes, promise to correct everything the current administration is doing wrong. By unspecified, vague means, other than simply winning office, they say they’re going to end bureaucratic waste and inefficiency.
Of course, it almost never happens after they win, take office, and hire or appoint people under them to help “clean up.” Among a slew of reasons, the primary cause of no actual cleanup is probably that tackling systemic problems within an established system is complex, not to mention time consuming. But when one man was actually making headway in cleaning up his department, he would find that not everyone was happy with his efforts.
Not Quite Prison
In Washington State, there exists a facility that’s best categorized as a mix between a prison and a psychological treatment facility. McNeil Island is a tiny land mass between Tacoma and Olympia, Washington, on the Puget Sound. It’s home to a civil commitment facility for violent sex offenders.
After Time Served
After Washington’s most dangerous sex offenders serve out their prison sentences, they are evaluated by a board that determines the likelihood of them repeating their crimes. Those determined likely to reoffend, who can’t be sent back to prison because they’ve served their time, are involuntarily committed to McNeil Island.
Two Ways Out
Because it’s technically a treatment center, not exactly a prison, those sent to McNeil Island have no set release date when they arrive there. There are only two ways off the island: through actively engaging with the psychological treatment until the state deems a person is no longer a threat to society, or by passing away.
This type of involuntary committal, practiced by Washington and 18 other states, is considered controversial with critics claiming it effectively amounts to extra prison time on top of what has already been mandated by law. At the same time, proponents of the practice claim it protects society from some of the most dangerous and heinous criminal elements.
Regardless of the controversy surrounding it, the facility at McNeil Island was made very secure by its isolation. It was completely disconnected from the rest of Washington and could only be accessed by the boat that arrived once every two hours. But that isolation also made the facility difficult to maintain.
There Are Problems
When Jon Hardy took over as the State Supervisor of Maintenance Workers at the beginning of 2016, he knew about the unique challenges the job would present before he came on board. He also knew about some problems that were due to something other than the island’s isolation.
Hardy had been hired specifically to address problems of poor work performance, attendance, drug and alcohol abuse, and a “general attitude of laziness, complacency, and inactivity,” among the maintenance staff. A culture of complete apathy had developed and it was his job to set things right.
And it wasn’t as if it were a problem of a few bad apples ruining the bunch. There were only 21 employees in Washington’s Consolidated Maintenance Operations division on McNeil Island and there were apparently problems with just about every one of them.
“Employees were taking advantage of the system and receiving taxpayer funds for little or no work,” Hardy would later say through a lawyer. He also learned that his bus drivers “had obvious and severe problems with attendance and substance abuse, often on the job.”
“His construction and maintenance staff members were not only consistently failing to complete any work, but they were taking extremely long meal breaks, often as long as two to three hours,” the statement continued.
There were work orders that were several years old that had yet to be fulfilled and some employees who, beyond doing a poor job, were simply lying about their work hours, falsifying their attendance records, and being paid for time where they weren’t even on McNeil Island, Hardy said.
Let’s Get Down To Business
As he was brought in to do, by politicians promising to clean things up, Hardy started addressing the problems right away. When the lax attitude ended at the top and Hardy started holding the maintenance workers accountable for their misdeeds, things quickly started to change.
Over the next few months, Hardy was able to largely turn his department around. He received praise from upper managers for “actually assigning work and inspecting it” — the very basic elements of his job. But while upper management was pleased, the workers apparently were not.
In the middle of April, Hardy had a meeting with his boss where he was informed that the workers were unhappy and had come to him with a number of complaints. They discussed the worker’s perceptions of Hardy and set goals for him moving forward. It seemed like a productive meeting. But the next day, Hardy was fired.
You Can’t Be Serious
Hardy was shocked, and rightfully so. He was brought in to clean up the department’s dysfunction and as he began to make progress along those lines, he appeared to have been fired for doing that very thing. He believed that the reason was that he was doing “too good” a job.
That’s My Job
“His work was initially rewarded with excellent reviews,” Hardy later alleged in a lawsuit, “until the extent of the employee fraud began becoming increasingly clear.” Doing a good job is commendable, but in this odd case it was apparently not what his betters wanted.
Rocking The Boat
That’s because, according to Hardy, “the extent of the employee fraud became increasingly clear and higher-level employees at McNeil Island began to realize that his work in ending the fraudulent activities, and doing what he was requested to do, was disturbing an ongoing boondoggle.”
Threatening Our Pockets
Cleaning house was “jeopardizing the McNeil Island workers and supervisors’ ability to receive taxpayer funds for doing little to no work.” In other words, Hardy’s work was putting their do-nothing jobs at risk, Hardy’s lawsuit further alleged.
See You In Court
The lawsuit Hardy filed sought unspecified damages for being wrongfully fired from the job, just months after he’d started it. The short time of employment was made even worse by the fact that he’d left a position in Arizona he’d held for 30 years to work for Washington State.
Whatever the eventual outcome of the lawsuit, the story highlights some of the problems with the justice system, the same sorts of problems that can occur in any government project that has a high budget and insufficient or ineffective oversight. In such situations, corruption is almost inevitable.