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One man's trash is another's clue

| Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2005

Franklin Park officials went too far when they hired a private eye who dug through a borough worker's garbage while investigating moonlighting claims, some residents say.

From May 17 to June 6, Franklin Park paid $867 to Monaca, Beaver County, private investigator Gentile-Meinert & Associates to determine whether building inspector Tim Phillips was doing outside work on the borough's time, according to billing records obtained by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The investigation included sifting through the garbage at Phillips' Shaler home and placing a global positioning device on the underside of a borough-owned sport utility vehicle he drives.

Neither borough Manager Ambrose Rocca nor council President Franklin Libson would say who ordered the investigation or what it found.

"The matter has been attended to," Libson said. "We had a problem and we resolved it."

Phillips, 47, referred questions to his lawyer, Bob Garber. Phillips remains on the job, which pays him $51,830 annually.

Phillips conducts home inspections outside Franklin Park on his own time and does "nothing that conflicts with his borough time," Garber said.

Garber declined to comment further.

According to a Gentile-Meinert bill, investigators met with borough solicitor Ira Weiss, Rocca and police Chief Donald Dorsch in May to discuss the probe. Dorsch said he was not a part of the investigation.

"I didn't even know about (the investigation)," said Councilman Dick Hartman, the borough's former building inspector. "I found out through the grapevine. Nothing ever came before council on this. ... It's wrong what they did to him."

Some residents agree.

"I thought this was highly improper. If this is about borough time, why are they digging through his family's trash?," said Kathleen Gallagher, 48. "(Phillips) is well respected. This isn't the kind of borough I want to live in. Any council member who supports this, doesn't deserve to be on council."

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