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Rolly: Corrections needs correcting, say employees

Published September 6, 2012 4:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There appears to be a revolt at the Utah State Prison, but it's not coming from the inmates.

Leaders of the Fraternal Order of Police have met with Gov. Gary Herbert, alleging a culture of cronyism at the state Department of Corrections, and an email to FOP members has called for a vote of no confidence in Corrections Executive Director Tom Patterson.

Patterson, meanwhile, sent an all-staff memo in August complaining that a culture of gossip is plaguing the department and stating that anyone with a beef is welcome to talk to him directly.

Patterson told me his memo was not intended as a direct response to the FOP email and that it mostly congratulated staffers for their work and dedication, but he also addressed the issue of workplace gossip and how destructive it can be.

The email calling for the no-confidence vote claims the plague in Corrections is a "culture of treating upper-level management very differently than line officers when it comes to discipline." It said the Patterson administration has made personnel decisions that were reversed by independent hearing officers and that "taxpayers are footing the bill for these poor decisions."

Patterson said in the appeals process he is at a disadvantage because he doesn't want to make public all the information he might have that led to a disciplinary action out of concern for the ultimate reputation of the employee. He said he tries to have an open dialogue with FOP and other employee groups. "We don't always agree, but with most issues, we can [solve them] with communication.

Herbert spokeswoman Ally Isom said the governor's senior staff has met with FOP about the complaints, and "we are working toward a solution."

Patterson was appointed Corrections boss by Gov. Jon Huntsman after a legislative audit found a culture of cronyism in the department under then-Director Scott Carver.

Impairing the landscape • Legislators and other public officials heard from experts at an alcohol-policy conference Thursday that state control over alcohol sales reduces teen drinking, drunken driving and other social problems.

But it's not so good for the environment.

The Utah Legislature, in its effort to reduce alcohol consumption, outlawed the sale of beer in kegs and, more recently, even in mini-kegs, forcing sales to be confined to bottles and cans.

But bottles, especially the brown beer bottles, are tougher to recycle because there is less of a market for the recycled brown glass.

The metal components of kegs have great recycle value, said Ashlee Yoder, recycling coordinator for the Salt Lake Valley Solid Waste Management Facility.

While the bottles comprise only about 4 percent of the waste stream, Yoder said, "the city and county spend a lot of money trying to recycle them, and there is very little monetary return."

Sticking it to the man • I have my own favorite story about eccentric but effective civil rights attorney Brian Barnard, who was found dead at his home this week.

Barnard successfully sued the state in 1987 over a law prohibiting remarriage for spouses behind in child-support payments. But then-Utah Attorney General David Wilkinson was not happy about giving any money to Barnard, who had long been a thorn in Wilkinson's side.

The attorney general was slow in paying Barnard's attorney fees in the case — despite three warning letters Barnard had sent him.

Finally, Barnard went to court and was granted a motion to garnishee Wilkinson's personal salary.

The attorney general then promptly paid the fees.

prolly@sltrib.com