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Former Shuman Juvenile Detention Center guard wants job back

| Saturday, April 6, 2013, 12:20 a.m.

The firing of a Shuman Juvenile Detention Center guard charged in an inmate assault that prompted a state investigation wasn't justified and he is seeking to get his job back, a union representative said Friday.

SEIU Local 668 agent Al Smith said the union, which represents 110 workers at the Lincoln-Lemington facility, filed a grievance on behalf of former detention Officer Ronald White. Allegheny County police charged 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 on Jan. 4.

“We felt a five-day suspension wouldn't have been justified. (Management) needs to figure out how they're going to handle these children. It's much harder to control their behavior now than before,” Smith said. “So how do you address it when a fight is breaking out? For years we've been saying there's too much gray area and they always end up throwing the employees under the bus.”

Shuman Director William “Jack” Simmons did not return a call for comment. County spokeswoman Amie Downs declined to comment, citing personnel rules. White could not be reached for comment.

County records show White worked at Shuman from Feb. 2, 2009, until March 12, 2013. He made $16.41 per hour.

The state Department of Public Welfare found “some regulatory violations” in an investigation that began with the abuse accusation Jan. 4.

County Manager William McKain released a report March 8 that uncovered apparent payroll discrepancies, allegations of favoritism on the job and problems with internal security at Shuman. The county Controller's Office is auditing Shuman's payroll system and the Shuman Center Resident Fund, which solicits cash and donations for inmates from detention center employees. The fund does not contain county money.

Smith said union members have complained about the resident fund in the past, citing concerns about where the money went and if money from inmates was deposited into the fund.

In response to a Right to Know Law request from the Tribune-Review seeking all written communication between county Executive Rich Fitzgerald — or his office — and Simmons, the county denied the request, claiming an exemption related to discipline.

The exemption cited was: “Information regarding discipline, demotion or discharge contained in a personnel file.”

Simmons this week declined to answer questions.

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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