GREENSBURG, Pa. (KDKA) – After 17 years at the helm, the Westmoreland County prison warden announced he’s stepping down. Warden John Walton submitted his resignation from his post and announced his retirement after a total of 24 years working for the county’s corrections department.
But it’s Walton’s contentious and sometimes acrimonious relationship with county commissioner and prison board member Gina Cerilli that Walton cited as the prime reason for calling it quits.
In his letter, Walton called commissioner Cerilli’s actions “relentless, baseless harassment” and that he “was the subject of an endless barrage of threats and a public smear campaign by commissioner Cerilli.” Walton also stated that Cerilli’s actions caused “immeasurable stress and even fear for my safety and the safety of my family.”
Commissioner Cerilli has publicly called for Walton’s firing on two occasions, accusing the jail management of inefficiency and staff misconduct.
Cerilli also blamed Walton for the suicide of a corrections officer, Henry Sonny Caruso, in 2018. Caruso was suspended as he was under investigation for his alleged involvement in human sex trafficking in massage parlors his wife owned. Cerilli and commissioner Sean Kertes voted against a raise for Walton in July.
Westmoreland County controller and prison board member Jeff Balzer, who voted to give Walton a raise, told KDKA when it comes to Walton leaving his post: “We gave institutional raises to everyone in that prison except for the top two guys. That could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
KDKA reached out to Warden Walton as well as all three county commissioners. Commissioner Gina Cirelli declined to speak on the matter. We’re awaiting a response from commissioners Sean Kertes and Doug Chew. Walton’s last day as warden is set for Nov. 6.