On Friday, the District of Columbia government announced that Chartwells, a school food servicer vendor, agreed to pay over $19 million dollars to settle a whistleblower suit filed under the city’s False Claims Act. Jeffrey Mills, the former director of the DC school system’s Office of Food & Nutritional Services, originally filed the case.
In announcing the settlement, DC Attorney General Karl Racine said,
“We’re pleased that Chartwells and the Office of the Attorney General have reached an agreement to resolve contractual disputes over school meals. Chartwells has quite reasonably acknowledged and addressed mistakes it made in administering the contract to provide food and food services to DCPS. It is important to ensure that contractors who receive District funds are held accountable for fulfilling their obligations under the contracts, and today’s settlement does just that. In light of Chartwells’ acceptance of responsibility, DCPS looks forward to continuing its contractual relationship with the company.”
The case is shrouded in some mystery as the attorney general has not yet disclosed what misconduct Chartwells is accused of committing.
We know that the whistleblower, Jeffrey Mills, brought a separate whistleblower retaliation action against the school system in 2013 after he was fired. The school district settled his retaliation case was settled for $450,000.
How much Mills receive under the whistleblower case has yet to be determined. D.C.’s False Claims Act statute says that whistleblowers will get between 15 and 25% of any recovery to the District. Had the D.C. government not intervened in the case, Mills would be eligible to receive between 25% and 30%.
The D.C. government press release says that in addition to the $14.4 million settlement, Chartwells is paying an additional $5 million to a school system educational fund and various nonprofit groups. Typically whistleblower awards are based on amounts paid to the government and not third parties suggesting Mills’ ultimate award will be between $2.16 million and $3.6 million.
Chartwells has a contract to provide food service to DC schools. The school district decided to privatize food service in 2008 both as a cost savings measure and as a way to offer more nutritional meals to school kids.
Many states and several cities have their own False Claims Act cases. Although awards in federal cases tend to be higher, this case shows that million dollar awards are possible even in municipal cases.
If you know of fraud against the federal government or any other public enterprise, give us a call. We also invite food service workers involved with school lunch or other government funded programs to visit our food service whistleblower information page. We can help determine whether you may be entitled to a whistleblower award and help you file the required lawsuit necessary to satisfy the requirements of most false claims statutes. In the last 12 months we have recovered over $100,000,000.00 for our whistleblower clients. More importantly, we helped them return billions to taxpayers.
MahanyLaw – America’s Whistleblower Lawyers