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Ross tax collector sues commissioners, claims defamation, retaliation

| Monday, April 28, 2014, 11:09 p.m.

The tax collector for Ross is suing five elected commissioners in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, claiming defamation and retaliation.

Gerald O'Brien's complaint accuses the township and eight people of defamation, retaliation and deprivation of due process, according to the lawsuit filed on Friday. He is seeking more than $35,000 in damages and legal fees and punitive action for alleged violations of the Sunshine Act.

Named as defendants are township Solicitor Bonnie Brimmeier, former Township Manager Deborah Grass, vacancy board Chairman George Tunney and Commissioners Dan DeMarco, Lana Mazur, David Mikec, Grant Montgomery and Grace Stanko.

“Obviously, we will be defending this vigorously,” Brimmeier said. “His complaint contains a lot of falsehoods.”

O'Brien, elected last year, said in the lawsuit that he was denied an office and banned from the municipal center based on unproven accusations that he sexually harassed township employees.

Attorney John R. Orie Jr., who represents O'Brien, declined to comment.

Ross commissioners in March 2013 banned O'Brien from the municipal center for anything but board meetings. A letter to O'Brien, dated March 5, 2013, said employees complained that he made inappropriate comments and asked them to do things that “made them feel uncomfortable.”

The letter, written by Brimmeier on behalf of the commissioners, said O'Brien spent an inordinate amount of time in the municipal center, disturbing employees and accessing township resources for personal use.

Commissioners in January denied O'Brien's request for an office, citing a March 2013 board vote that eliminated the tax collector's office.

His office is in a building in Evergreen Park, on Evergreen Road. O'Brien was a commissioner for 13 years.

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or kshea@tribweb.com.

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