With episodes of undercover FBI work, revelation of government bribery and retaliation by county officials, this whistleblowing story is one for Hollywood.
Alessandro Salvo and his father operate G.S. Construction, which was awarded a 2011 contract to replace sidewalks along South Hairston Road in DeKalb County. Shortly after beginning work, the county inspector Neacacha Joyner made their lives miserable with complaints. When Joyner later asked for a $500 loan and the Salvos complied, all of the problems from her stopped. Joyner later approached them with an overbilling and kickback scheme. The Salvos contacted the FBI and went undercover for one year to expose the entire illegal operation. The Salvos paid almost $30,000 in cash to Joyner and her boss, Fidelis Ogbu. Their work resulted in a 15-count criminal grand jury indictment of DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis for theft by extortion.
Last year, G.S. Construction was the lowest bidder on a project to replace water lines in DeKalb County. The Salvos had a congratulatory letter from the county’s workforce program to prove it. Their joy turned to befuddlement when the county staff recommended two other companies for the job, costing DeKalb taxpayers $274,151. The county argued that the Salvos’s bid documents had an error that cost them the bid. The Salvos recognized and corrected the typographical error months before the job was awarded.
Alessandro Salvo sued the county and Judge Linda Hunter restored the water lines contract to G.S. Construction. The county decided not to appeal, but one of the other vendors still has the right to appeal.
Georgia’s new false claims act, effective July 1, 2012, is expansive. The Georgia Taxpayer Protection False Claims Act extends whistleblower protection to any fraud or false claims against the state and local governments for all Georgia counties, municipalities, school districts and hospitals. The act authorizes rewards to whistleblowers of 15 percent to 25 percent of the recovery if the state intervenes and 25 percent to 30 percent of the recovery if the state does not become involved.
Whistleblowing can be complicated. If you have information concerning bribery, extortion or fraud at any level of government, call a Dallas whistleblower attorney to discuss your claim.