Probation director quits amid drug test scandal

Published On: Aug 30 2012 04:15:58 PM CDT   Updated On: Aug 29 2012 01:45:36 PM CDT
HOUSTON -

The director of the Harris County's probation department has resigned as a result of the drug test scandal plaguing the department.

Harris County prosecutors have stopped using any drug tests performed by the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department as evidence in any case. District Attorney Pat Lykos announced the moratorium Tuesday, one day after a district court judge ruled those tests were no longer credible.

"This moratorium will remain in effect until I am assured of the accuracy of the department's test results," Lykos said in a statement.

The fallout comes after days of testimony showing a long list of problems, errors and mix-ups in the way the county's probation department tests probationers for illegal drugs. In some cases, positive drug tests were linked to the wrong people. Local 2 Investigates reported last week that at least one probationer went to jail in part because of an erroneous drug test result.

Along with the moratorium, Lykos said her office will start a full review of all potentially-affected probation cases.

"Defense attorneys who believe their clients have been negatively affected are invited to bring their concerns to our specific attention," said Lykos.

Monday, District Judge Denise Collins ruled she will no longer allow any drug test results provided by the probation department her in court. She also called called for department director Paul Becker and three top assistants, Ray Garcia, Gilbert Garcia and Kim Valentine, to resign immediately.

Becker submitted his resignation on Wednesday. It becomes effective on Friday.

"Please accept my decision to retire as the Director of Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department effective August 31, 2012. It has been my honor and privilege to serve the judiciary in that capacity," Becker wrote in his letter to more than three dozen district and criminal court judges.

Officials have not yet said who will replace Becker.

Defense attorney Lisa Andrews uncovered the drug testing problems during what's usually a routine probation revocation hearing involving urinalysis tests performed by the probation department. Andrews called several probation employees to the stand who testified they told supervisors about the continuing problems with the collection and monitoring of drug tests and the computer database used to record results.

"It seemed there was no part of the process that was exempt from error after error after error," Andrews said.

Andrews said she believes only a person from outside the probation department should be considered for the director's position.

Probation department leaders admitted they never told prosecutors or even judges about the problems, even when they knew probationers with erroneous tests went to jail.  

Andrews said she has been flooded with calls from probationers who believe they were mistakenly given positive drug test results. Some have claimed that they paid for private drug testing to prove they were not using illegal drugs.

Lykos said her office routinely reviews similar situations for any evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Her office would not comment on any existence of an investigation in this case. However, members of the DA's public integrity unit were in court monitoring the hearing.