Lackawanna County Prison Guard Says He Was Fired For Reporting Sexual Abuse

August 21, 2018 GMT

A former Lackawanna County Prison lieutenant filed a whistleblower’s lawsuit, alleging he was fired for reporting guards were sexually abusing inmates and committing other misconduct.

Richard Grenfell says he was one of the few people, if not the only person, who tried to stop the abuse. Nothing was ever done and instead he was punished for trying to end the long-standing culture of silence that allowed the abuse to occur, he says.

Grenfell, of South Abington Twp., was fired in July 2016, after prison officials said he made inappropriate sexual comments about a female co-worker. The suit, filed by Scranton attorney Curt Parkins, alleges the real reason he was fired was to cover up wrongdoing of other employees, including Capt. Robert Maguire and William Shanley.

Donald Frederickson, the county’s acting chief of staff, said the county will vigorously defend the lawsuit.

“I can assure you Mr. Grenfell was not fired because he was a whistleblower, but because of actions he took while employed at the prison,” Frederickson said

According to the suit filed in Lackawanna County Court, Grenfell started working at the prison in 2011. Part of his job was to investigate misconduct of prison staff.

In June 2016, Grenfell learned Maguire sexually abused an inmate outside the jail walls and that other guards were also sexually abusing inmates. He reported the information to former Warden Robert McMillan, who served from June 2011 to June 2016, and current warden Tim Betti, but neither did anything about it, the suit says.

At around the same time, Shanley, Grenfell’s direct supervisor, learned Grenfell was investigating him for using current and former inmates to do work at his residence.

In July 2016, Grenfell met with Parkins’ law partner, Matthew Comerford, who filed several lawsuits on behalf of women who allege guards sexually abused them. Within two days of the meeting, which took place at an area restaurant, Grenfell was notified he was accused of sexual harassment. He was fired soon after.

The Times-Tribune does not identify victims of sexual abuse.

The suit does not deny Grenfell made a comment about the coworker, but says other employees engaged in far more egregious conduct and were treated more leniently — one received a one-day suspension; another received a verbal warning; and one was fired but later brought back.

The suit names the county, prison, Maguire, Shanley, McMillan and Betti as defendants, as well as Brian Loughney, former director of human resources, and David Langan, the prison’s deputy warden. It seeks damages on several counts, including violation of the state’s whistleblower’s law and Grenfell’s First Amendment right to free speech.

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