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Delaware County prison chief to retire after Inquirer investigation into allegations of racism

John A. Reilly Jr. announced Monday in a letter to county officials that he will retire on Nov. 27.

John Reilly Jr., Superintendent of George W. Hill Correctional facility, faced allegations of racist and abusive behavior in his decade-long tenure.
John Reilly Jr., Superintendent of George W. Hill Correctional facility, faced allegations of racist and abusive behavior in his decade-long tenure.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

John A. Reilly Jr., the superintendent of Delaware County’s jail, told county officials Monday that he plans to retire following an investigative report on his conduct by The Inquirer and the Caucus.

Reilly, 62, sent a letter to county Executive Director Marianne Grace telling her he plans to leave the position he’s held overseeing the facility since 2008. His resignation is effective Nov. 27, the same day that Grace will submit to County Council her three selections for the county’s new Jail Oversight Board.

Reilly did not respond to a request for comment Monday. In the letter, obtained by The Inquirer, Reilly said he was choosing “not to be a distraction from [county officials'] work or the important work to be started by the county Jail Oversight Board.”

In a story first published Friday, The Inquirer and the Caucus detailed allegations of racist and abusive behavior

Reilly, in his letter to Grace on Monday, called the allegations false and said they were the result of the “personal agenda of the complainants.” He also disputed The Inquirer’s reporting with the Caucus.

Efforts to reach Reilly were unsuccessful Monday. His lawyer, Joseph Podraza Jr., said Monday that he was not aware of the letter Reilly had sent to county officials.

News of Reilly’s decision to leave his post comes at a time of significant transition in the county: Last week, Democrats took control of the county’s ruling board for the first time in history. And in October, the current County Council unanimously voted to overhaul the board that oversees George W. Hill Correctional Facility, the only privately operated county jail in the state.

The new Jail Oversight Board will replace the current, politically appointed Board of Prison Inspectors. It will include elected officials and the three members of the public chosen by Grace.

This change in structure also requires Grace to select a county-employed warden to oversee the prison’s operation by the GEO Group. GEO, a global prison conglomerate, is one year into a five-year contract with Delaware County.

With his announcement Monday, Reilly is removing himself for consideration for that role.

The 2014 whistle-blower letter, sent by former Warden Cameron Lindsay to the state Attorney General’s Office and Delaware County officials, accused Reilly of calling black corrections officers by the N-word in front of senior staffers, referring to Latino workers as “tacos,” and once saying he hoped a pregnant female employee would have a child with birth defects.

Lindsay also alleged that Reilly directed underlings to target black guards for unnecessary urine tests and searches of their lockers and cars.

Delaware County officials hired an outside lawyer to investigate the allegation, paying her $20,000. There was no written report generated as a result of the probe, only an oral presentation made to County Council members during a closed executive session.

Reilly told reporters he had been suspended for 30 days without pay as a result of the investigation, which found that he oversaw an “unprofessional environment” in which employees used “salty language.”

In an interview last week, Reilly denied Lindsay’s assertions.

“I realize the allegations are horrible, but I was not involved in any of this," he said. “I didn’t say [any of] that.”

The Inquirer and the Caucus also reported that Reilly used his position to hire a woman with no corrections experience for a senior position in his office, and that he oversaw bank accounts worth $750,000 that county officials said they had no knowledge of. Reilly said the woman’s hiring was appropriate and county officials were aware of the bank accounts.