Audit finds detention Shuman Juvenile Detention Center misused funds

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Here's a tip: You know your facility is in trouble when you have a part-time preacher managing your money.

That's the conclusion Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner reached in an audit examining the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center, a troubled facility that recently saw its top two administrators sacked.

The audit, which is expected to be released today, found serious errors in the facility's payroll practices and uncovered weak oversight of several inmate funds. Auditors confirmed two of the center's funds were managed by the Rev. Floyd Palmer, a barber who works part time as the center's chaplain.

All this adds to the already long list of reasons why Shuman Center should be closely examined, Ms. Wagner said.

"It's a critical function of county government," she said. "You have people who really need support. It's my hope this administration will truly focus on helping the kids."

The audit confirms criticisms first made public earlier this year, when county manager William McKain released a report lambasting Shuman's leadership. Under director William "Jack" Simmons and his deputy, Lynette Drawn-Williamson, employees complained of favoritism and irregular discipline, going as far as to send a petition to the executive offices on Grant Street, the report read.

Mr. Simmons and Ms. Drawn-Williamson were dismissed last month.

The audit says Rev. Palmer personally managed about $2,000 in facility money, which came from donations made to his bank account and was supposed to be spent on gifts and rewards for the center's residents.

Some of that money instead went to pay for an annual dinner for Shuman staff, where facility leaders would recognize noted volunteers and long-time employees. The items that actually were bought sometimes made their way into staff members' pockets, the audit said.

Ms. Wagner's staff also noted several occasions when staff members were overpaid or given more holiday pay than they earned.

Though employees are permitted to "sell back" sick days they do not use, auditors found many of the sampled employees still kept their days off after they got their check, possibly costing the county more than $12,000. Others received more time off than allowed, costing more than $1,500.

William Stickman III, Shuman's acting director following the firing of Mr. Simmons, gave little comment in his written response to the audit.

"The administration and Shuman Detention Center takes very seriously this responsibility and will utilize and consider this report's recommendations," he wrote.

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Andrew McGill: amcgill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1497.


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