Local borough, council members named in ‘whistleblower’ lawsuit

Local borough, council members named in ‘whistleblower’ lawsuit

HOMESTEAD, Pa. — A local borough and several of its leaders are being taken to federal court.

Channel 11 obtained a “whistleblower” lawsuit filed against the borough of Homestead, four current council members and a former council president.

The bombshell document, filed by former Borough Manager Lauren Zang, claims she was fired after reporting alleged misconduct.

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The suit claims she spoke up after allegedly determining that a borough employee, who is related to a councilmember, had “claimed eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits for several weeks” while “receiving full pay” from the borough.

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The 11-page document also alleges that Zang filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission after the son of former Council President Louise Benton was hired by the borough to remodel a recreation center. There was apparently no bidding process for the project, which was never completed.

Channel 11 called a listed number for Benton on Monday, and we were told no comment.

Council minutes dated June 11 note that Benton was removed from her position in a 4-3 vote.

Minutes for meetings that occurred after June 11 have not been posted on the Homestead Borough website. Via voicemails and emails, Channel 11 has requested more recent minutes, citing the Sunshine Act. We have yet to receive these public documents.

On Monday, Channel 11 went to the municipal building. Only a front desk worker would speak with us. That worker told us that the new borough manager had no comment. We requested the name of the new borough manager, considering the borough website still lists Zang in that role.

That staff member would not provide the name of the new borough manager, nor would she provide contact information for council members.

We were directed to call the borough’s solicitor, Joseph Hemminger, who had previously told Channel 11 that he cannot comment on pending litigation.

Homestead Mayor Betty Esper returned a call from Channel 11, confirming the existence of the lawsuit, but she stated it doesn’t involve her.

The next Homestead Council Meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 15, per the borough site.

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