October 18, 2019 11:49AM

New York: Cold Showers, Black Eyes, and Public Employee Tenure

New York State has agreed to pay $6 million to settle claims that disabled residents of a Bronx group home for developmentally disabled adults were physically abused and neglected by staff, and the state has also spent a further $5.7 million thus far defending the staff members in court, as Benjamin Weiser reports in the New York Times. Among the allegations were that staff members hit and kicked residents, gave them cold showers, and "left some with black eyes and other bruises." However, don’t assume that any public employees lost their jobs:

A state investigation later substantiated allegations of misconduct by 13 workers.

But the state failed to fire any of the employees, The New York Times reported in June.

A state arbitration process shielded the workers who had been cited for abuse and neglect. They were typically sent to other jobs in the system.

As part of the settlement, lawyers representing families insisted that the group home be removed from the control of the New York state government.

Anti-privatization campaigns, often backed by public employee unions, inveigh against outside contracting for social services as a menace to accountability. But it is worth remembering that direct state provision of services can be among the least accountable alternatives of all. [adapted from Overlawyered]