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An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
January/February 2011

Training at the Top:

Orientation for new board members

stack of booksTraining is an important element in many things we do: performing a job, running a marathon, driving a car; it helps us to be prepared and qualified to complete the task at hand.

Training is conducted at many levels of the agency, even for the Texas Board of Criminal Justice. All newly-appointed members receive extensive training as part of their initial orientation to the agency. In fact, a certain level of training is actually required by statute, and must be conducted before the individual can vote, deliberate, or act as a member of the board.

Members of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice are appointed by the governor to serve six-year terms. The terms are staggered, with three of the nine members’ terms expiring in February of each odd-numbered year. Upon a term’s expiration, the governor can appoint a new member or reappoint a member whose term is expiring to serve another.

Training for new members is conducted prior to the member’s first board meeting. In accordance with state law, it must include information on the role and function of the TDCJ and the board, and an overview of the programs operated by the agency. New members are also required to receive information on the legislation that created the agency and board, as well as all TDCJ rules, to include those that relate to the disciplinary and investigative authority of the agency.

In addition, the training must include a review of the agency’s current budget and the results of the most recent formal agency audit. As the board is the certifying authority for the Private Sector Prison Industries Program, a new member must also receive training on the legislative history and operations of the program, as well as any applicable federal law concerning its operation.

From the legal aspect, a new member must receive training on the requirements of administrative procedure law, on laws relating to public officials, including conflict of interest laws, and applicable ethics policies adopted by the agency or the Texas Ethics Commission. Members must receive specialized training from the Texas Attorney General’s Office on the Open Meetings Act and the Public Information Act. New members are also required by statute to receive training related to their responsibilities under the Texas Public Funds Investment Act.

In addition to statutorily-required topics, a new member receives briefings from individuals who report to the board. This includes the executive director, the inspector general, the Internal Audit Division director, the director of the Office of State Counsel for Offenders, and the PREA ombudsman. As the board serves as the board of trustees for the Windham School District (WSD), a detailed overview of the WSD, their programs and their budget are also provided by the superintendent and WSD staff.

To supplement this training, and for continued reference, the board members are provided materials related to the board’s responsibilities, the policies and rules that govern the agency, the divisions within the agency, and the advisory boards and other entities that work in conjunction with the board. They are also given information that directly correlates to the required training, such as A Guide to Ethics Laws for State Officers and Employees, as well as the administrative requirements to serve as a member.

To complement the training, members periodically visit with divisional staff and tour units and offices throughout the state. They have found these tours and visits benefit the learning process. Seeing the magnitude of the operations within the agency for themselves helps members understand the responsibilities and challenges facing agency staff.

With their wealth of experience in the professional world, board members bring with them extensive knowledge that benefits the system. Through orientation and training, the agency is able to help new members understand the operations of the agency, and establish a foundation on which to build and effectively serve the citizens of Texas.

 

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