Fraud & Whistle-Blower

Fraud

Fraud and whistle-blower allegations are particularly sensitive and may be politically volatile for public agencies. PII has broad experience investigating conflict of interest, kickbacks, bid rigging, bribery, fraudulent contractor billing, election fraud, favoritism and corruption in fire and building inspections, and violations of health and safety codes in public schools.  The firm has presented its findings at closed sessions of elected boards and commissions, as well as at public hearings. PII has helped municipalities recoup millions of public dollars and aided them in preventing future fraud.

With its reputation for neutrality and professionalism, PII has provided comprehensive reports and detailed analyses of findings, assisting public sector organizations facing serious allegations at local, state, and national levels.

Whistle-Blowers

When whistle-blowers come forward with damaging accusations, organizations are wise to retain an external investigator who can provide an unbiased view. The allegations may be politically explosive and difficult to prove or disprove.  If true, they may trigger the need for institutional changes and reforms. Even when false, whistle-blower complaints can unleash a public relations firestorm.

Experience has taught PII that even when whistle-blower allegations sound far-fetched, sometimes bordering on the outrageous, a closer look at the accusations is often warranted.

Whether the allegations turn out to be founded or unfounded, a report from PII demonstrates that the agency took the charges seriously and initiated prompt action.

PII’s investigations of whistle-blower complaints include:

• A public works director at a Los Angeles area municipality allegedly accepting kickbacks from a construction contractor seeking business with the city.
• A firefighter and a captain accused of cheating on an examination for promotion.
• A public college’s dean accused of steering college business to his spouse’s accounting firm.
• A city councilperson who was accused of conflict of interest in reviewing a zoning variance request and allegedly accepting gifts and campaign contributions from the builder.

Case in Point

Fleishman-Hillard, a national leader in the public relations field, had a long-standing contract with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), but a former Fleishman-Hillard employee alleged that the PR firm was submitting fraudulent invoices to the water agency.  Litigation ensued, and PII was retained to assist LADWP’s in-house counsel.  During the investigation, PII interviewed dozens of former Fleishman-Hillard employees, reviewed thousands of pages of documents, and found further evidence of wrongdoing. The City of Los Angeles recouped nearly $6 million in a pre-trial settlement.  One of Fleishman Hillard’s principal managers was indicted and convicted. Read the LA Times article here.

Case in Point

When the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) faced whistle-blower accusations about toxic school sites and other environmental problems, PII was asked to conduct a large-scale investigation of the District’s procedures and practices.  During this assignment, PII focused on the controversial campus of Belmont Learning Complex to determine if LAUSD complied with laws related to school construction.  Presenting its findings at executive sessions and public meetings, PII issued a report that was praised by Board of Education members, state legislators, the media and other stakeholders in the District.  Eventually, PII’s recommendations became part of a District-wide plan to improve LAUSD’s performance in this area.  Read the NY Times article here.

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