By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
Nine months into her tenure, Lois Bean has been released from duties as the Curry County detention administrator.
The change, effective immediately, was announced in a press release sent at the close of business Wednesday.
Bean, contacted Wednesday night, said she was “still digesting” her dismissal and there weren’t clear reasons to make the move.
“They have not given me any reason that is concrete,” said Bean, who was hired Dec. 15, 2008.
Curry County Manager Lance Pyle said in the release that Bean, “has initiated changes at the facility, but other crucial steps that have been directed are not being made priorities.”
Pyle said Carlos Ortiz takes over as interim administrator. He has been at the Curry County Adult Detention Center for a month as chief security officer.
County Personnel Coordinator Denise Stewart said in the release a national search will be conducted to find Bean’s replacement.
Pyle said in the release the intent is to fill the position by Jan. 1, 2010, but additional time may be needed.
Pyle intends to have the position posted within two weeks and keep the posting open through November.
He declined to elaborate on Bean’s dismissal beyond the release .
In the release, Pyle said he met with Bean nearly a month ago and directed changes immediately.
While the county appreciated the services she provided, Pyle said there was a need for more progress.
Bean came to Clovis in the months following an Aug. 25, 2008 escape of eight inmates.
The eight — some of the most violent inmates at the Curry County Adult Detention Center — used a stolen key to gain access to a plumbing shaft, shimmied up a pipe and used a makeshift knife to hack a hole in the jail roof.
Seven of the escapees were eventually captured. Convicted child killer Edward Salas remains at large.
Bean said she believed she did plenty in her tenure. She cited accomplishments including improving staff morale; communication with state agencies to upgrade training opportunities and equipment; work towards achieving American Correction Association standards; and initiating programs to help inmates get high school equivalency diplomas and deal with substance abuse and/or anger management.
“I don’t want to appear to be negative towards Curry County,” Bean said. “I was asked to come here. I didn’t come seeking a job. I was contacted and asked to come here and do a job. I did a job. I don’t feel I have been rewarded nor do I feel I was supported by a jail committee that was set up to run the jail.
“I feel like the jail (over) eight months had been a major turnaround, and I felt like I did the job I was brought here to do.”
Only days before the one-year anniversary of the eight-prisoner escape, another prisoner escaped and the jail mistakenly released an inmate.
John “Toy Toy” Garcia was released Aug. 8 while on a court-ordered hold awaiting a parole hearing. He turned himself in three days later.
The day after Garcia’s release, inmate Bobby Owen escaped from custody, using a pair of handcuff keys left for him in a bathroom at Plains Regional Medical Center.
Two detention officers were fired soon after.
“I’m not saying if (the escape and release was) a factor or it was not,” Bean said. “But if it was, the inmate escaped from the hospital parking lot. He did not escape from the jail.”
Caleb Chandler, a Curry County commissioner and chairman of the jail committee, said he felt top priorities were improving security at the jail and following directives set forth by both the committee and consultants hired by the county in the wake of the August 2008 escape, which drew national media attention.
Chandler said he agreed with Pyle’s decision and the desire for a national search.
“We need to find someone who can meet the challenges of the Curry County jail, specifically,” Chandler said. “We need to make sure this time; we’ve got the right person. This has been going on far too long.”