Search still on for Homestead code enforcement officer
Homestead is looking for a full-time code enforcement officer.
“We have advertisements out,” borough manager Ian McMeans said. “We are accepting applications.”
He said Evermore Consulting LLC is providing part-time code enforcement services until the position is filled.
Council removed Thom Betz from the post on July 26 by a 5-2 vote, with council president Susan Titmus, vice president Barbara Broadwater, and Councilors Ron Blount, Zaneta Hines and Donald Turner in favor. Councilmen Drew Borcik and Lloyd Cunningham opposed the firing.
Betz clashed with some councilors when he distributed applications for business privilege taxes to the three jitney stands along Ann Street on Jan. 9 of last year.
Some business owners had complained earlier that jitney drivers weren't paying the annual $75 tax, and that the stands didn't have occupancy permits.
Betz said a two-month investigation into those complaints revealed that at least 39 jitney drivers were operating from those stands.
Betz claimed council told him on Jan. 10, 2012, to “let it alone.”
Betz, who worked for the borough since May 8, 2008, filed a lawsuit on Sept. 6 in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, claiming council retaliated because of the investigation.
The suit alleges that council violated the state Whistleblower Law, which prohibits employers from discharging, threatening or otherwise discriminating against an employee who “makes a good faith effort or is about to report, verbally or in writing, to the employer or appropriate authority an instance of wrongdoing or waste.”
According to the lawsuit, Blount and Hines are jitney drivers who, Betz claims, motivated council's actions.
Those included, the suit says, enacting an ordinance prohibiting Betz, a certified state constable, from carrying a weapon; ordering him to stop enforcing ordinances and regulations relating to the business privilege tax; disciplining and remanding him for attempting to collect the tax from jitney drivers; denying his vacation request; disciplining him for calling off work for illness; and removing him from his job.
The borough claimed in preliminary objections that Betz didn't make a “good faith report” of “wrongdoing or waste” and he “attempted to usurp the function of the borough tax collector.”
The borough said it has no duty to collect the business privilege tax, and therefore failing to do so does not constitute wrongdoing or waste.
The borough suggested that Betz should have taken complaints to the tax collector instead of conducting his own investigation.
Those objections on behalf of council were overruled by Common Pleas Judge Robert Colville on Nov. 26.
The borough claims in the lawsuit that Betz was terminated because he failed to attend mandatory meetings, didn't answer questions from the borough manager about his activities, lied to council, didn't follow borough procedures for calling off of work, and didn't perform code enforcement full time but instead worked as a constable while being paid by Homestead.
Betz said in court documents that he is wrongly accused and he was never disciplined before Hines and Blount became councilors.
Blount died on Sept. 25 from cardiac arrest.
Resident Carol James asked council at a meeting on Thursday night if business privilege taxes are being collected from jitney drivers because, as borough solicitor Bernie Schneider acknowledged in May 2012, even illegal businesses are obligated to pay.
“The tax collector is a distinct elected officer of the borough of Homestead,” Schneider said. “Council has no disciplinary authority over the tax collector.”
Tax collector Joyce Stype did not respond to a request for comment by presstime.
Stacy Lee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1970, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 2 firefighters injured battling Munhall blaze
- Former Century III Mall general manager waives charges
- Steel Valley school directors honor new San Francisco 49ers head coach Tomsula
- West Mifflin thrift store sells winning lottery ticket
- Twin Rivers Intermediate students get hands-on science lessons
- Overall Mon-Yough homicide stats remain steady
- St. Agnes students assist food bank during Catholic Schools Week
- Clairton City School District directors cap possible 2015-16 tax hike at 3 percent
- 3 arrested in recent McKeesport business burglaries
- Propel teams up with local organizations to test performing arts methods
- 1 suspect arrested in deadly McKeesport shooting; 2nd still at large