Wilkinsburg says borough code enforcement officer was not fired as whistleblower

By Dee Thompson | Jun 5, 2017

PITTSBURGH — A former employee of the Borough of Wilkinsburg who filed suit in March was not terminated in retaliation for whistleblowing, the borough alleges in a newly filed answer to the complaint, but for misconduct and insubordination.

James F. Frank claimed in his lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County that his employment with the Borough of Wilkinsburg was terminated because he participated in an investigation with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. 

Frank claimed he was terminated for being a whistleblower. The borough’s answer, however, states, “Plaintiff was not engaged in any protected activity as defined by the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law.”

In the defendant's new filing, it denied that Frank served as interim Director of Code Enforcement in June 2015. The borough also denied claims that Frank’s performance and disciplinary record were exemplary. 

Eric Parrish took over as Director of Code Enforcement in June 2015, and, according to the document, “Mr. Parrish took issue with the manner in which all of the Code Enforcement officers were performing their work and instituted policies relative to the entire Code Enforcement Department. All of the employees complied or attempted to comply with said policies except for Mr. Frank.” 

The filing mentions specific instances in which Frank was allegedly rude and insubordinate toward Parrish, his supervisor, including one on June 23, 2016. The document states that, while correcting an error Parrish made in assigning Frank work, Frank responded to Parrish "in an extremely rude and insubordinate manner. Moreover, Mr. Parrish corrected himself as to the identification of the street in question in the conversation with Mr. Frank. However, Mr. Frank continued to be rude and insubordinate."

The new filing claims that Wilkinsburg did not run afoul of the law in terminating Frank and that Frank's own conduct and insubordination were the reason for his firing. The document also states the defendant's objection on the grounds that Frank's suit does not state a claim for which he can be granted relief.

Frank is represented by attorney Sean A. Casey. Teresa O. Sirianni of the firm of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin represents the Borough of Wilkinsburg.

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Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin

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