Questions Raised in Firings of Workers at Shuman Juvenile Detention Center

By Puko, Tim | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 13, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Questions Raised in Firings of Workers at Shuman Juvenile Detention Center


Puko, Tim, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Shuman Juvenile Detention Center may need new leaders, according to several Allegheny County Council members who plan to meet with officials next week about the center's ongoing problems.

Council members questioned the leadership of director William "Jack" Simmons on Friday in the wake of the county's firing on Thursday of seven Shuman employees accused of shirking their duties.

The council's Public Safety Committee scheduled a Wednesday afternoon meeting and invited Simmons to discuss several ongoing investigations at the Lincoln-Lemington facility by county police and state regulators.

"I'm very skeptical that we're going to get the answers that we need. This is the third time they've come in in the past year, and I'm losing faith in what they've told me," said committee chairman Jim Burn, D-Millvale. "I think his intentions are good and he wants to do the right thing. I don't know if it's push-back or if he just can't do it."

Simmons did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

"Rather than faulting Jack, you could argue he is in large part responsible for catching what's happening out there," said Kevin Evanto, spokesman for County Executive Dan Onorato. "There's a culture out there that says you can do these things and get away with it. That's what Jack is ferreting out."

He met with Burn's committee in March to tell members that staff halted a rash of fights and injuries at the facility. Now state investigators say Shuman workers violated regulations, and Onorato said workers are rebelling against Simmons' disciplinary crackdown.

Simmons has said he's tried to reform staff work habits since he was hired in spring 2007. His salary is $98,345, according to the County Controller's Office.

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