Former employee sues Black Creek Twp., claims whistleblower violation

By Patrick Kernan - [email protected]
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WILKES-BARRE — A former employee of Black Creek Township is suing the municipality and two of its supervisors, claiming he was let go from his job for whistleblowing.

John Ross filed the suit in Luzerne County Court on Friday through his attorneys Franklin F. Kepner Jr. and Franklin F. Kepner III of the Berwick law firm Kepner, Kepner & Corba.

According to the suit, Ross was employed by the township as a road foreman, supervising the township’s road crew between 2012 and his termination in June.

Ross’s apparent whistleblowing stems from the paving of Hazle Street in June 2017. The paving was done by M&J Excavation in Bloomsburg, under the supervision of RJD Engineering, the township engineer, the lawsuit says.

Ross states in his suit that M&J Excavation was voted on by township supervisors without an advertisement for bids, which would be a violation of state law.

The pavement began to develop cracks, and Ross claims he went to supervisors Joseph Lescowitch and Bonnie Adams to urge them to repair the road while it was still under warranty. He also claims he requested an investigation of why the street deteriorated so quickly.

Lescowitch allegedly dismissed the claims, saying the cracks were normal, and Adams allegedly refused to look at the street to see the deterioration.

Ross claims he then reached out to newly elected supervisor, Saura Rohrbach, who Ross claims examined the road and contacted PennDOT to obtain an independent engineer.

On April 11, Ross claims he, Rohrbach, two members of the road crew and the engineer, Jason A. Snyder, went to examine the cracks in the road. Lescowitch allegedly drove by and asked what the meeting was about, before returning 15 minutes later and “verbally attacking” Ross and Rohrbach and threatening to terminate Ross.

Ross was suspended with pay April 27, and supervisors voted to terminate him June 5. The vote was notably 2-1, and the suit specifies it was Lescowitch and Adams who voted to terminate him.

At the meeting, Rohrbach read a statement written by engineer Snyder that described Lescowitch as the aggressor during the April 11 incident.

“(Adams and Lescowitch) undertook to terminate (Ross), even though they had before them information that (Ross) acted appropriately and that Lescowitch was the aggressor who began screaming at (Ross),” the suit says.

Ross is claiming that he was fired in violation of a state law protecting whistleblowers. He also claims he’s been defamed by the defendants. He’s seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

Black Creek solicitor Donald Karpowich did not immediately return calls seeking comment on Friday afternoon.

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By Patrick Kernan

[email protected]

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan