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Cuyahoga County's juvenile detention director fired for poor performance

Delbert Montgomery claims he was "targeted"
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Posted at 7:52 PM, May 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-03 19:54:34-04

CLEVELAND — Citing concerns about leadership, Cuyahoga County's Director of Juvenile Detention Delbert Montgomery was fired after less than a year on the job according to just-released documents from his personnel file.

"This information presented a comprehensive and clear picture that the detention center is not effectively operating under your leadership," Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Administrative Judge Kristin Sweeney wrote on April 3 in a letter terminating Montgomery.

It was a far-cry from last fall when Sweeney told Cuyahoga County Council that Montgomery had been hired to help turn the troubled juvenile center around. In January 2018, teens in the center rioted. Later that same year, a report from consultants outlined the center's failures.

"In his leadership roles Mr. Montgomery has faced challenges very similar to what we have experienced here," Sweeney told council members.

But the termination letter, released in response to a public records request by 5 On Your Side Investigators, is peppered with incidents that paint a picture of a complete lack of leadership.

"In October the court received multiple complaints about your workplace conduct, including allegations that you made inappropriate comments about females; that you openly divulged confidential information; that you engaged in disruptive or fractious communication with staff...that your managerial oversight of the facility was concerning; and that you interrogated employees you suspected had complained about your conduct to court administration," Sweeney wrote.

According to Montgomery's personnel file, in November administrators decided to extend his six month probationary period to one year after his Introductory Period Performance Appraisal showed he scored "below expectations" in six key areas. But court officials say they saw little improvement in the months that followed.

For example, administrators say by the end of March, only 19 of the center's staff had received suicide prevention training. The report also says that staff members told an investigator that the climate of the facility was "remarkably poor," indicating "things have never been this bad" and using the term "powder keg." It also claims that Montgomery was not aware that in January a teen choked another teen to the point of unconsciousness until a member of a quality assessment team told Montgomery of the incident nearly a month later.

Sweeney also claims that a January state audit of the center found it was out of compliance with 10 key areas including "poor implementation of behavior management, lack of programming, and inappropriate use of confinement." The letter goes on to say that during the process Montgomery "made a troubling comment to the effect that the facility needed to 'scrub' its records."

When Sweeney introduced Montgomery to county council members last September she trumpeted his experience as an administrator in facilities in Georgia, Kansas and Missouri, and how he'd been selected after a nationwide search. But in her letter terminating the director, Sweeney noted that Montgomery "made a material misrepresentation to county council that changes had occurred in the facility staffing" at that same meeting.

Reached by phone Friday evening, Montgomery declined an on camera interview but disputed many of the claims. He insisted he left the juvenile detention center better than he found it a year ago. He also believed he was "targeted" by administrators after making recommendations for changes.

When asked about the allegations in the termination letter, Montgomery said, "The Court has a tendency to make things sound the way they want them to sound."

A spokeswoman for Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court did not respond to a request for an interview Friday.

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