A Pennsylvania man who claims he was wrongfully fired by a company controlled by members of Rep. Paul Kanjorski’s (D-Pa.) family is moving to depose the veteran lawmaker and his top aide in the case.
Thomas Unger, former executive vice president of Cornerstone Technologies, alleges that the firm, which has received millions of dollars in federal research funds thanks to Kanjorski, acted illegally in firing him in May 2001. Unger is seeking testimony from Kanjorski and Karen Feather, Kanjorski’s chief of staff, to help bolster his case.
“Obviously, we think he has information that bears on this matter,” Unger said.
Since 1998, Kanjorski has helped Cornerstone and another company owned and run by his four nephews and daughter by earmarking more than $9 million in federal contracts and grants for the two firms, although Kanjorski insists that he has not profited personally from those deals. The companies research water-jet technology.
Kanjorski’s controversial ties to Cornerstone and Pennsylvania Micronics nearly resulted in House GOP leaders filing an ethics charge against him in late July 2002. Only when Democrats threatened to retaliate by filing ethics charges of their own against Republicans did Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) quash the effort against Kanjorski, preserving an undeclared, six-year cease-fire between the two parties on ethics charges.
FBI agents and a federal grand jury were reportedly investigating Kanjorski’s ties to the two firms last year, according to local press reports. Kanjorski said he has never been contacted by anyone looking into the case.
Kanjorski allegedly exercised close operational control over Cornerstone, according to Unger and another former employee of the company. Kanjorski has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and pointed out that he is not a party to Unger’s lawsuit.
As per House rules, Kanjorski notified the chamber Sept. 4 that he had received a subpoena requiring him to testify in the lawsuit, although Kanjorski added in an interview that it was actually a notice from Unger’s lawyer that he would be seeking to depose him rather than an actual subpoena.
Unger sued the company last summer, charging that he was let go illegally, and he has asked for more than $100,000 in back pay. Cornerstone countersued, alleging that Unger and another ex-employee leaked proprietary technological data owned by Cornerstone to a rival firm, Allied Resources Corp., in an attempt to cut a side deal with that company.