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Urine trouble

A tale of ignoble pursuits and silence at Bexar Probation


Scrubbing the trail as suits mount, an Open Records response from Bexar Probation.


Greg Harman
gharman@sacurrent.com

Each day seems to bring new revelations about how much (as opposed to how little) titular officers at Bexar County Probation knew about bad drug-test results coming back from contracted pee readers at Treatment Associates.

While the Current’s Open Records request for documents related to failures implementing Progressive Sanctions (See "Breasts, toes, and probation," 1/28/09), came back all marked up without any legal explanation, other emails continue to leak out other departmental holes.

Almost immediately after closing their in-house drug lab, Bexar Probation began receiving startlingly high numbers of positive drug results from its chosen cup sniffer, Treatment Associates. Suspicions were raised.

Since the original contract between the County and TA provided for free confirmation testing via the industry’s leading technology — gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, or simply GC-MS — some of those early positives were apparently shipped for confirmation.

Of 26 “positive” drug tests performed by TA that were shipped off for confirmation by GC-MS operator Norchem Drug Testing during the first four months of TA’s contract, only eight came back actually tainted by opiates, cocaine, or methamphetamine, according to newly released documents.
 
Some of these confirmation requests contained several classes of drugs. In one case, a probationer was accused of having opiates, methamphetamine, and THC in their system at the same time. After running the same pee through GC-MS, all three triple-strikes were cleared by GC-MS. This happened three times in a row to the same probationer.

Considered by drug class, the cases secured by San Antonio Attorney David Van Os as part of the discovery period of one of his lawsuits naming Bexar Probation and Chief Probation Officer Fitzgerald represent a total of 39 alleged positive claims of drug use. When checked against GC-MS, however, only 10 of those cases — one in four — came back positive.

An amended contact between the County and TA in July of last year added a $25 fee for GC-MS confirmation, but according to current and former case managers, these confirmation tests were rarely used by the department after privatization, and were quickly done away with altogether.

An email from May 2008, also provided to Van Os, shows a probation manager asking Assistant Chief Minerva Boor about the chances of getting a confirmation test for her client.

“No confirmations available for now. Will keep you posted,” was the response.

When we cranked out our cover story ("Test tube maybes," 10/01/2008) about problems at Probation, bigshots there told the Current that while judges may order GC-MS confirmations and probationers may request such tests from the judges, Probation is out of the game.

It was unclear (though a hair on the pretty-fuckin’-doubtful side of things) whether or not case managers inform their clients they have the right to a scientifically accurate drug test.

Treatment Associates supposedly changed the pee-cup provider they were using since the rash of so-called false positives were made. How that may have changed the game — and what happened to the probationers being served up false results over this period — only a select few know. For now.

As to the tome of black-lined emails farmed out to us, we’re waiting on the state Attorney General to sort that out for us.

We’ll keep you posted.


Posted by gharman on 2/12/2009 12:44:48 PM
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