MEDIA — Longtime Delaware County Prison Superintendent John Reilly will not seek appointment to warden under a change in oversight at the prison following an investigative report by the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Caucus, according to a letter expected to be submitted to county Executive Director Marianne Grace Tuesday.
“During my tenure of public service with the county, which began as a front-line prosecutor, I have come to recognize what an extraordinary job county officials do in the field of law enforcement and public safety,” Reilly said in the letter, which indicates he will retire effective Nov. 27. “I was honored to be a part of that effort. It is for those people that I submit this letter, as I choose not to be a distraction from their work or the important work to be started by the County Jail Oversight Board.”
County Council voted unanimously last month to disband the five-member Board of Prison Inspectors overseeing the 1,883-prisoner George W. Hill Correctional Facility and replace it with a nine-member Jail Oversight Board, which is expected to be in place by Nov. 27 – the same date as Reilly’s retirement. The role of superintendent at the prison will be conveyed on the warden under that change, and Reilly indicated he did not want to be considered for that position. Grace will name the new warden, who will be a county employee,
Grace was unavailable for comment yesterday on Reilly's decision, and whether any other candidates to head the prison have come forward. Grace also will deliver her three recommendations for the new oversight board to council on Nov. 27.
The Nov. 8 article referenced in Reilly’s letter recounts allegations in a 2014 whistleblower letter filed by a former warden that alleged Reilly routinely used the “N” word to describe black corrections officers, called Latinx employees “tacos” and targeted minorities for drug searches of their lockers and vehicles.
Reilly, who joined the prison as deputy superintendent in 2001 after 12 years as an assistant district attorney and became superintendent in 2008, has denied the claims in the whistleblower letter and defended a decision to hire a preschool teacher with no prior corrections experience as an assistant superintendent in 2013.
He said in the resignation letter that the allegations raised in the whistleblower letter had been investigated by the county and were determined to be untrue. According to the Inquirer and Caucus report, the county did hire Philadelphia employment attorney Elizabeth Malloy to look into the allegations, but “the scope of Malloy’s investigation is unclear all these years later, as are her findings; she discussed the matter in a closed-door meeting with county officials, instead of compiling a written report.”
Reilly was suspended for 30 days without pay as a result of that investigation, according to the Nov. 8 article. County Council approved the suspension but did not disclose it because it was considered a personnel matter, the article says.
In his letter, Reilly claims the allegations were “investigated by the county and found to be proven not true.” He also claims the Inquirer was provided with “background facts regarding the allegations which totally undercut the veracity of those claims yet chose not to include them in the story.”
"We stand by our reporting," said Gabriel Escobar, editor and vice president of the Philadelphia Media Network, in an emailed statement.
The Inquirer and Caucus report additionally found Reilly previously had control over four private bank accounts amounting to more than $750,000 that had been tapped for things like fruit baskets for prison board members and to make a $5,000 donation to two women Reilly Met at his gym in their efforts to cross the Pacific Ocean in a rowboat. Those were the only bank accounts in the county that had not been disclosed to the county controller’s office, according to County Controller Joanne Phillips.
Reilly claimed the controller’s office was aware of the accounts and they were audited annually, noting those funds had been transferred to a fiduciary account last month at Phillips’ urging, according to the article.
The county's George W. Hill Correctional Facility is the state's only privately operated prison. Operations at the county jail have been under heavy criticism from activist groups as well as political candidates, most of whom called on the county to bring the jail back under direct county supervision.
Last December the prison board unanimously approved a new five-year, $264 million contract with Geo Group Inc. to operate the 1,183-inmate prison ahead of a $100,000 report commissioned from Phoenix Management to examine whether the facility should come back under county control.
The contract includes two 2-year options that could extend it to a nine-year contract at a cost of $495.9 million. Board officials said that fixed rate could save the county $10 million.
Last Tuesday, three Democrats - all of whom opposed private operation of the prison - won seats on county council, making the county ruling body 5-0 Democratic. During the campaign Democrats indicated one of their first orders of business would be a complete review of prison operations.