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Board Votes Gilchrist Out

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A divided department, wrongful termination allegations and low morale have plagued the Brazos County Juvenile Detention Center.

Monday the center's board voted to deny reinstatement to Director Rhonda Gilchrist who's been on administrative leave.

The next vote was to terminate her.

In the 22 months Rhonda Gilchrist has been director, she's tackled the issues of employees sleeping on the job, looking at porn on their computers and putting the children in their care in danger.

Several employees were fired, but Monday the seven-member board voted narrowly to fire her.

Now, the department must move forward, in spite of its problems.

Rhonda Gilchrist has been defending her job for over a year, but Monday the juvenile board got the last word.

"I put the focus on the kids and it cost me my job," says Gilchrist.

Problems at the detention center began long before Gilchrist was selected as director two years ago.

Reports of employees abusing juveniles, sleeping on the job, watching movies with nudity and supervisors hiring family and friends came to light when Gilchrist took over.

Many employees said their termination was wrong.

Others say Gilchrist was doing a good job.

"This is a battle of injustice. This is a battle of many people who have their own agenda," one employee told board members.

Just like the department, the juvenile board is also divided.

"I'm very disappointed with the board's decision. She was doing a good job, she's done a good job and it's a sad commentary," says County Judge Randy Sims.

Gilchrist was already cleared by two independent investigations of doing anything wrong.

But when employees were surveyed, two things stood out that influenced some board members, morale and favoritism.

"They seemed really upset about morale, but when you're holding people accountable who have never been accountable before, morale is going to be down," says Gilchrist.

In the past, the department was also having to give money back to the state because of poor record keeping.

Gilchrist was able to get the budget in order, and get a higher Texas Youth Commission rating.

Overall, Gilchrist says losing her job hurts, because of the children.

"To be quite honest, if the board wants to put office politics over the kids, then I don't need to lend them my good name."

There is no appeal process for Gilchrist, however Tuesday she plans to hold a press conference and offer proof that she did her job.