Democrat says GOP leaders protecting Perry over youth commission

AUSTIN (AP) - A House Democratic leader says his Republican colleagues have stalled on reforms to the troubled Texas Youth Commission in order to protect Governor Rick Perry's image.

Representative Jim Dunnam, who leads the House Democratic Caucus, says action should have been taken as soon as allegations about sex abuse surfaced.

A powerful legislative committee was supposed to meet today to discuss asking Perry to fire the commission's board and appoint a conservator to root out abuse and corruption.

But Dunnam says House Speaker Tom Craddick never showed up for the meeting. Craddick chairs the committee with Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, who has insisted a conservator is needed.

Officials with Craddick and Perry didn't immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.

It comes after a Texas Rangers investigation in 2005 found that key employees of the West Texas State School in Pyote had repeated sexual contact with inmates.

A later internal investigation confirmed the findings and said top officials knew of the abuse but did nothing to stop it.

Three newspapers reported today that a commission investigation found that an employee sexually abused three girls at Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Facility in Brownwood. The officer has not been charged yet.