Federal lawsuit claims misconduct, including drinking alcohol and sleeping on the job, at Lehigh County 911 call center

Written by on October 22, 2021

Federal lawsuit claims misconduct, including drinking alcohol and sleeping on the job, at Lehigh County 911 call center

By Hayden Mitman

October 22, 2021

Lehigh County Executive Phil Armstrong says at least part of a federal lawsuit he’s named in, which was filed Oct. 20 2021, is without merit. (WLVR file photo)

A recently filed federal lawsuit claims dispatchers at local 911 call centers drank alcohol, slept, and watched movies on the clock. 

Listen to the story.

It also alleges that they ignored Spanish speaking callers. 

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of seven people who were either fired or resigned from Allentown and Lehigh County 911 call centers. 

It describes a mismanaged workplace where emergency calls allegedly went unanswered. 

The suit further claims that some dispatchers wouldn’t help Spanish-speaking callers and as a result two people, including a 14-year-old, died in a fire in July 2020.

Lehigh County Executive Phil Armstrong is among those named as defendants in the suit. Armstrong said officials are looking into it.

“We keep all our recordings from 911. We’re going to do an in-house investigation,” he said.

After some review, Armstrong disputed the claim that dispatchers were responsible for those fire deaths. Recordings from that time show fire and police responders were dispatched “in less than 60 seconds,” Armstrong said.

County Solicitor Tom Caffrey also disputed the allegations. 

“There’s no proof of the allegations at this point. They are just allegations in a complaint and certainly the county will do it’s due diligence to determine whether there’s any validity to these allegations,”  Caffrey said. “What gets lost in the flurry of allegations is that these plaintiffs either resigned or were terminated because they were drinking alcohol on the job.” 

The plaintiffs are seeking millions in damages and back pay. 

The plaintiffs’ attorney could not be reached for comment before publication.  

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