PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Allegheny County Council voted to sue the chief executive and the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania over the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center.
The county recently signed a contract with Latrobe-based Adelphoi to reopen Shuman by the end of the year, but some on Allegheny County Council argued it violated the Home Rule Charter.
On Tuesday in a 9 to 4 vote, Allegheny County Council approved a bill to file a lawsuit against Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald over the county signing a contract with Adelphoi.
Some members of the council argued they have to approve or strike down the contract with power based on the Home Rule Charter. If there is a use of county property, it has to come before Allegheny County Council to vote on that use.
Before the vote, President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark spoke in favor of Adelphoi.
"It's extremely difficult for a county to provide detention services as evidenced by the revocation of Shuman's license to operate," she said. "Aldephioi has decades of experience serving at-risk children across the continuum, everything from community-based services to secure residential programs."
Others said a privatized juvenile detention center is not a good idea.
"I'm deeply unsurprised to see Judge Clark here arguing for the opening of Shuman because jailers will always want more jails," Tanish Long of Pittsburgh said. "I would take that testimony with a grain of salt."
"Privatizing Shuman Center will not make our community safer," Carl Redwood of Pittsburgh said.
The bill's sponsor, Bethany Hallam, slammed Clark.
"I believe it to be highly unethical that a sitting judge would come in front of us today and attempt to influence a legislative body, especially about a lawsuit that would very likely come in front of the Court of Common Pleas," Hallam said.
Councilperson Sam DeMarco said the lawsuit is about politics and not public safety.
"We need to get Shuman open as quickly as possible," he said. "We don't have any place to detain these kids."
Allegheny County Council President Pat Catena believes the county should run a detention center.
"The county can do the best job. And we are Allegheny County, and you are not going to tell me that we can't find qualified individuals to run that facility holding them accountable," he said.
KDKA-TV reached out to a county spokesperson and was told the county is not commenting.
Catena said the county entered into a contract with Adelphoi for $74 million for five years.
for more features.