Department of Corrections hotline received 160 employee conduct calls in first year

Call logs from the Department of Corrections C.L.E.A.R. Hotline shows operators fielded hundreds of calls between May 2017 and April of 2018. (Ashley Zavala/KRCG 13).

The hotline implemented in the Missouri Department of Corrections for its employees to report unprofessional conduct received about 160 calls in its first 11 months.

The department's director, Anne Precythe, established the hotline in the spring of 2017 amidst a legislative effort to improve working conditions in the department. Reports in late 2016 showed the department had paid out millions of dollars in litigation to former employees who claimed they were either victims of discrimination or harassment. Other former employees have spoken out about inconsistent policies, shuffling of administrators, nepotism and fraternization. Precythe was appointed director of the department shortly after George Lombardi stepped down following scathing reports about the department's work environment.

Precythe worked with a legislative committee to address the hostile working conditions. The hotline was one of the panel's first recommendations Precythe brought to fruition.

A sunshine request fulfilled by the department showed the Confidential Line for Employee Allegations and Reporting received hundreds of calls between May 24, 2017 to April 30, 2018. About half of them were classified as either hang-ups or wrong numbers. About 160 of the calls were in relation to some sort of employee concern.

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Documents provided to KRCG redacted the name and phone number from each call recorded. In nearly 20 of the employee-conduct-related calls, the location was not identified.

The C.L.E.A.R. hotline operators can determine whether to send a conduct related call to one of three units in the department's office of professional standards. The Civil Rights Unit investigates allegations of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unprofessional conduct. Of the 160 aforementioned calls, 89 of them were forwarded to the Civil Rights Unit.

The Employee Conduct Unit investigates employee violation of policy and procedure. Data showed this office received eight of the reports. The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Unit is responsible for investigating and overseeing employee compliance with PREA. This unit was forwarded four of the reports.

The following is the number of calls the hotline received from a facility or division of the department.

Moberly Correctional Center: 13

Western Missouri Correctional Center: 11

Probation and Parole District 26- Fulton: 11

Farmington Correctional Center: 8

Eastern Reception Diagnostic Correctional Center: 7

Fulton Reception and Diagnostic Center: 6

Jefferson City Correctional Center: 6

Probation and Parole District 13- West Plains: 5

North East Correctional Center: 4

Western Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center: 4

Chillicothe Correctional Center: 4

South Central Correctional Center: 4

Algoa Correctional Center: 4

Crossroads Correctional Center: 4

Boonville Correctional Center: 3

Southeast Correctional Center: 3

Women's Eastern Reception and Diagnostic Center: 3

Tipton Correctional Center: 2

Probation and Parole District 38- Troy: 2

Transition Center of St. Louis: 2

Maryville Treatment Center: 2

Kansas City Reentry Center, Ozark Correctional Center, Missouri Eastern Correctional Center, Cremer Therapeutic Community Center each reported to the hotline once. Probation and Parole Command, Probation and Parole District 75, District D4W1, District 28, District 8C, District 32, District 24, District 10R each reported to the hotline once.

"We take each complaint seriously and we have to determine the best way to respond to it," Precythe told KRCG 13.

"We are a staff of 11,000 employees and the volume of calls that has come in is very minimal when we look at the large number of staff we have and we're very pleased with that," she said.

Precythe said so far this year, she has only seen one staff member complete the department's four-step grievance process. She said it's a significant decrease compared to the 24 employees who went through the process in 2017.

"That means staff is having confidence in the process we've put in place to address employee issues," Precythe said.

"We're communicating in a better way. We're responding to things in a manner better suited for the employee, and hopefully employees and supervisors are developing that dialogue instead of feeling the need to write a complaint."

Precythe noted the department's 2,000 supervisors underwent new training. She also said 20 of the department's 21 facilities saw some sort of change in its leadership.

"We spent a lot of time this year talking with staff, talking about the reality of what's going on, peeling back the onion to find the root of this behavior, the feelings of unrest," Precythe said.

"It's been a fascinating process focusing on the employee. At the end of the day, it has been the right thing to do."

So far in 2018, the department has paid out $2.9 million dollars in lawsuits and settlements to former employees. In 2017, the department spent about $1.5 million on employee discrimination lawsuits.

One person has filed an employee discrimination lawsuit against the department so far this year.

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