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Youth probation officers call for new leadership

Alleging bullying, retaliation and plummeting morale, Clark County youth probation officers pleaded Tuesday for a change in leadership.

The unions that represent the officers and their supervisors told commissioners that recent votes of no confidence against Director of Clark County Juvenile Justice Services John “Jack” Martin tallied 167 to 8.

Martin has been at the helm of the juvenile services since 2012 as acting director, before being officially appointed to the post in 2013.

The no-confidence votes took place less than two weeks ago, Kevin Eppenger, president of the Juvenile Justice Probation Officers Association, told the Clark County Commission during public comment at the end of a special budget meeting Tuesday.

“This percentage speaks loudly to the lack of faith our officers have in the leadership that’s being provided by the Department of Juvenile Justice Services,” he said.

Eppenger said the dissatisfaction was longstanding, and noted meeting with county officials to discuss the unions’ issues, in addition to results of a a county survey completed last year that expressed the qualms with the department’s leadership.

“Our issues are not an all-of-a-sudden thing,” he said.

Matthew Richardson, president of the Juvenile Justice Supervisors Association, said multiple lawsuits and complaints had been filed with state and federal authorities about “arbitrary and capricious investigations” against the department’s own officers.

“This director has a large problem in dealing with his commissioned staff, and he can not be expected to have the people-person skills or any other skills in dealing with the families and at risk youth in our community,” Richardson said.

Martin referred requests for comment to the county’s public information office. A Clark County spokesperson wrote in an email: “We are aware of the issues the union is raising and are working through next steps.”

Martin has decades of experience in juvenile justice services from California, Arizona, Hawaii and Nevada, according to his biography in the county’s website. “His unique leadership style and direct experience rebuilding troubled systems gives him a unique perspective when incorporating innovative and time tested programs into our juvenile system,” the bio reads.

Johnny Fletcher said he was fired a year ago after being accused of choking a teenager at the Spring Mountain Youth Camp. While the youth repeatedly told investigators that didn’t happen, he was terminated anyway, he said.

Fletcher, who also coached the camp’s basketball team, said a supervisor made up the allegation and that Martin went along with it. The probation officer said he was recently reinstated.

“I just want some accountability and I want something to be done about the tactics that these people use to fire employees for little or no reason,” he said.

Christine Johnson said she expressed worry about her sleeping arrangements when the camp transitioned to 24/7 with staff staying overnight.

She said Martin downplayed her concerns, implying that the staff were involved sexually “anyway.”

“He may present to you very well, but in closed doors or in meetings, he talks to us gangster,” Johnson said.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.

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