A Somerset County equipment operator who got a full-time PennDOT job after settling accusations against the agency now says he has been fired on trumped-up claims.

He is back in federal court suing a second time for the job.

Frank L. Steele was hired in November 2007 in a settlement with PennDOT in which the agency also paid his attorney, Thomas P. O’Brien of Pittsburgh, $20,000 in fees.

Steele claimed PennDOT had passed over him for a job in 2003 and hired another man out of nepotism or high-level favoritism.

Now Steele says others he worked with at the Jennerstown shed concocted false claims of wrongdoing against him and he was fired.

He lasted as a snowplow driver and in other tasks less than six months, until March 2008.

Steele is again suing the defendant in the original lawsuit that was settled, J.A. Keleman II, PennDOT’s Somerset County maintenance manager.

Other defendants in the suit are District 9 Engineer Thomas Prestash and agency workers Phillip Menser, James Pononia and Tyson Weir. All are Somerset County residents.

“It was well known at the location where he was working that he sued defendant Keleman and that he was hired as part of a settlement of that lawsuit,” Steele’s current suit says.

Steele claims the defendants accused him of wrongdoing in retaliation.

The state Attorney General’s Office, which will represent the PennDOT workers, did not immediately return a call for comment Monday afternoon.

In its defense to the original court petition, the attorney general’s office said Steele was passed over for the job because he was insubordinate and took unauthorized breaks while working for PennDOT at a temporary job.

Steele wants a jury trial for his claims of breach of contract and the right to proceed with his previous suit.

He is seeking reinstatement as an equipment operator, front and back pay, and damages topping $50,000.

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