Lawsuit against whistle-blower dismissed

A measure of holiday cheer came early to the Las Vegas man who got sued for reporting his suspicions about substandard maintenance of fire-detection systems at certain local hotels, an assisted living facility in Las Vegas and a Henderson shopping mall.

On Dec. 15, the lawsuit by Siemens Building Technologies against its former employee Joe Estany was dismissed, with prejudice. That means the service technician — whose information has led the Clark County District Attorney to consider a felony prosecution — no longer has litigation hanging over his head, which he had claimed in the past was impairing his ability to find work in his field. The Siemens complaint alleged that Estany was bad-mouthing his ex-employer and sharing proprietary secrets when he tried to get hired by Siemens’ local competitors.

Estany told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Wednesday that he could not comment on the court order by District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonazalez dismissing the civil case, nor on the negotiations that led to the resolution.

“My emotional state? It’s taken a lot out of me,” said Estany, who is currently unemployed. “I’m just happy to have it over.”

Steven Kuehn, an Illinois-based spokesman for Siemens, also said he could not comment.

Lawyer Kathleen England, who came to Estany’s rescue in January when he was on the verge of court sanctions for not cooperating with Siemens’ local attorneys as he represented himself in court, did not return a phone call from the newspaper requesting comment.

Siemens terminated Estany, a former service supervisor, in 2006. It sued him in 2007 for breach of contract, after he went to the Clark County Fire Department with his suspicions.

The technician believes the company took maintenance shortcuts that compromised electronic systems to detect fire and tell occupants to evacuate a building.

According to Estany, it encouraged its techs to mask, rather than correct, electronic signals that indicated a potential malfunction.

Jim Wright, the Nevada state fire marshal, sent an investigation file based on Estany’s concerns to the Clark County District Attorney’s Office last summer. Michael Staudaher, a lawyer in the district attorney’s office, said Wednesday that the fire marshal’s investigators continue to research the matter.

Among the sites under scrutiny are the Charleston Retirement and Assisted Living, the Galleria at Sunset, Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon on the Strip and the Edgewater and Colorado Belle hotel-casinos in Laughlin, which have all been Siemens clients.

Siemens Building Technologies also installed fire-detection and other electronic systems at CityCenter.

It is the U.S. subsidiary of a global concern that designs and makes electronic systems used in safety, security, manufacturing, health care and climate and traffic control.

Contact reporter Joan Whitely at jwhitely @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0268.

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