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Report on Shuman Juvenile Detention Center in Allegheny County uncovers violations

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 8:06 a.m.

The state Department of Public Welfare confirmed on Tuesday that it found “some regulatory violations” in an investigation of Shuman Juvenile Detention Center that began with a teen's accusation of physical abuse by two staffers in January.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, meanwhile, praised his manager for uncovering apparent payroll discrepancies, allegations of favoritism on the job and problems with internal security during a county investigation begun last year.

Fitzgerald said he ordered County Manager William McKain to investigate Shuman when 70 employees claimed they faced a hostile work environment. He hinted the investigation could broaden.

“There was a petition brought to me, and I had the county manager look into it,” Fitzgerald said. “We're going to follow the county manager's recommendations. We're looking at a number of county departments.”

Shuman Director William “Jack” Simmons declined comment. Simmons has headed Shuman since April 2, 2007. His salary is $98,345.

Welfare Department spokeswoman Donna Morgan said the state is investigating the Jan. 4 incident at Shuman and will not release information about it until investigators complete their inquiry. The Lincoln-Lemington facility has 130 beds.

“The preliminary results found some regulatory violations, but the investigation is still ongoing,” Morgan said.

Morgan would not discuss the incident. Court records show county police charged Shuman detention Officer Ronald White with simple assault and official oppression, based on allegations that he hit a 16-year-old inmate's head into a metal door frame using his forearm.

A preliminary hearing for White, 43, of Braddock is scheduled this month. He could not be reached.

Amie Downs, spokeswoman for Fitzgerald, said White is no longer a county employee. She would not discuss details of the departure citing personnel rules.

A representative for the Service Employees International Union did not return calls for comment.

McKain said his report “is a starting point.” The county Controller's Office is auditing Shuman's payroll system and the Shuman Center Resident Fund, which solicits cash and donations for residents. The fund does not involve county money.

“Our work has just begun there,” McKain said. “There are a lot of concerns regarding payroll. It appears people were paid for time not there. I'll wait for the (audit) results and determine the appropriate action. We're looking forward to any recommendations in strengthening controls.”

Fitzgerald said McKain did “a good job” with his investigation of the facility. According to the report, McKain reviewed schedule sheets and payroll records and found “numerous discrepancies in which employees did not clock into the time system yet received a full pay without any documentation to justify time paid.”

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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