PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — He headed a group of workers told to remove tons and tons of tile from the buildings on the old Westinghouse site in Churchill, but says he was never told that each one contained dangerous levels of asbestos.
They said it was safe. He told me he tested the air and tested the tiles and it was all negative,” said Ray Sida, a construction worker.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “And he did none of these things?”
Sida: “He did nothing at all.”
But when Allegheny County charged the property owners, Ramesh and Vikas Jain, in the largest asbestos removal case in its history, Sida, who is their longtime employee, said the Jains asked him to take the fall.
“They said, ‘We need you to take care of this problem,’” said Sida. “And I said, ‘In what manner? What do you want me to do?’ They said, ‘We need you to take the blame.’”
Sheehan: “They need you to be the fall guy?”
Sida: “They wanted me to be the fall guy.”
This week, an Allegheny County hearing officer threw out charges against Sida, ruling he’d been set up after Sida testified that he and a group of workers were told to do the job with no protections.
Sheehan: “So you had no protective clothing?”
Sida: “They didn’t give us anything, just masks, and the masks, I got for the guys.”
Sheehan: “There was no containment?”
Sida: “Nothing, nothing whatsoever.”
Sheehan: “And you aren’t licensed to do this kind of work?”
Sida: “I’m not licensed to do anything like that.”
Sida’s attorney, Ken Hardin, said that to cover their tracks, the Jains then created a dummy company called Pintura Construction, naming Sida as the head and telling county officials that Sida and his company were responsible.
“In a sense what they were trying to do was put all of the blame on Ray,” said Hardin.
Then, Sida says the Jains tried to buy his silence.
Sheehan: “What did they offer you?”
Sida: “A house, money, a house for my mother, a car for my mother. If I just take the blame, or if I keep my mouth shut. Either, or. And I couldn’t do it. See, they didn’t care about my health, about my life. So, I had to make sure it didn’t happen to anyone else.”
The Jains have refused all comment since KDKA broke this story months ago. But, in front of their own hearings they have maintained their innocence and inability to pay fines in the amount of $1.4 million for improperly removing and dumping the asbestos.