The front page headline in this morning’s Atlanta Journal Constitution says it all – Grand Jury: Corruption Part of County Business. Some would say we are becoming immune to government corruption but thankfully most people are still outraged. A special grand jury in suburban Atlanta conducted a year long investigation and found corruption at all levels of DeKalb County government. The grand jury also noted brave employees who decided to turn whistleblower and help end the corruption.
County Detective Becomes Whistleblower:
The report details the actions of one whistleblower – a county police detective – who started to investigate fraudulent payments to “favored” contractors. When she told superiors of her findings, her investigation was shut down. Now the grand jury believes the county public safety director should be charged with obstruction.
According to published reports, the grand jury found that county officials awarded a $2.2 million tree trimming contract to a fake company owned by a Cartoon Network employee who did not even own a chainsaw.
The investigation will likely lead to scores of indictments. Already former county executive Burrell Ellis is under indictment on charges of theft, attempted extortion and conspiracy.
Investigation Begins From Whistleblower Tip:
So how did this big investigation and special grand jury start? It started after a county Department of Watershed Management inspector pled guilty to taking bribes from local businesses. After the plea, a concerned manager decided to become a whistleblower and came forward because she believed the corruption was widespread. Her concerns resulted in county prosecutors convening a grand jury.
The targets of the investigation predictably claim the grand jury was politically motivated. The grand jury consists of 2 dozen randomly selected county residents. It’s hard to believe that political foes of the incumbents could manipulate such a large and diverse group of people.
Georgia’s Whistleblower Law:
Georgia expanded their state false claims act in 2012. Under the new law, a whistleblower can receive between 15 and 30% of whatever monies are recovered on behalf of the government. The law covers fraud to state or local government programs. That means that if a whistleblower has evidence of a no show contract or illegal kickbacks, he or she could receive a sizeable cash award.
Georgia’s law is patterned on the federal false claims act. Dozens of other states have adopted similar laws. Corruption and fraud are rampant in today’s society but new whistleblower programs are putting a big dent in the problem. In the case of DeKalb County, the people behind the fraud must now also worry about prison.
Why We Tell These Stories Every Week:
We understand that becoming a whistleblower is no easy task. The detective who first tried to blow the whistle on corruption could have lost her job. Instead, officials simply tried to pull the plug on her investigation. For awhile it worked. Inevitably, corrupt regimes collapse. Unfortunately, until they do, taxpayers are left holding the bag. Political patronage jobs, kickbacks, overbillings and no show jobs all take their toll on taxpayers’ wallets.
By telling these stories every week, we hope that more people will be persuaded to come forward. Not every whistleblower qualifies for a cash award but we can help determine whether your information does qualify. Whistleblower protection laws in most states cab protect you if you lose your job or suffer retaliation.
If you wish to become a whistleblower and have inside, non-public information about fraud against the government or involving taxpayer funded programs, give us a call. We represent whistleblowers and help them stop fraud and collect the largest award possible.
Mahany & Ertl – America’s Fraud Lawyers. Offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Portland, Maine and San Francisco, California. Services available in many jurisdictions.
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Posted by Brian Mahany, Esq.