Shuman reopening delayed as operator countersues Allegheny County

Allegheny County’s Shuman Juvenile Detention Center sits shuttered on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

Adelphoi Western alleges that County Council’s legal maneuvers amount to improper government interference.

by Charlie Wolfson, PublicSource

The nonprofit company hired to run the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center has yet to reopen the facility despite a targeted April launch. The nonprofit, Adelphoi Western, has already received $1.2 million from Allegheny County and is seeking more in a Court of Common Pleas filing this week.

Adelphoi Western is taking legal action against the county, seeking damages for operational and reputational harm it says County Council has inflicted on it in trying to halt the contract.

Meanwhile, about 20 minors are incarcerated in the adult-oriented Allegheny County Jail. 

Adelphoi said in the legal filing that council acted on “biased, discriminatory and improper motives” when it voted to sue the county administration to void a contract that former County Executive Rich Fitzgerald awarded to Adelphoi in 2023. 

Abigail Gardner, the county communications director, declined to comment on the lawsuit but said the facility is expected to open in “a matter of weeks.”

Council members voted to sue Fitzgerald in September, alleging that the contract needed council approval because it granted the use of county property to a third party. The administration said the contract was only for professional services and could be awarded by the executive alone.

The legal battle had been confined to feuding county government branches, until Adelphoi filed its counterclaims this week. 

“Adelphoi Western has expended time and financial resources, incurred harm to its reputation and the business goodwill surrounding the ‘Adelphoi’ name, and has been subjected to constant interference with the opportunity to conduct its business and provide a much needed service,” the company’s lawyers wrote in a filing dated May 8. 

An Adelphoi representative declined to comment further.

The Latrobe-based nonprofit provides residential and foster services in numerous Pennsylvania counties. It alleges in its counterclaim that council has treated the company differently from “similarly situated vendors” and contractors, amounting to a violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Current County Executive Sara Innamorato, who took office in January of this year after the contract was finalized, has voiced concerns about Adelphoi’s track record but said she wants the project to press ahead. The priority, she said, is getting minors out of the jail, which houses certain youth in the absence of a juvenile facility. 

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