The largest food vendor in Washington, D.C. will pay $19 million as a result of a whistleblower lawsuit claiming the company poorly managed and overcharged for public school meals.
The lawsuit was filed against Chartwells and Thompson Hospitality, which had been providing meals for the schools since 2008. The suit claimed that in addition to wrongfully overcharging the city for the meals, food items repeatedly arrived late, spoiled or in fewer quantities than the city ordered. Once the lawsuit was filed, an investigation took place, followed by a complaint made by the D.C. attorney general.
Regarding the $19 million settlement, Attorney General Karl A. Racine commented that he thought it was an appropriate resolution, which held the city contractor accountable for its actions. However, the settlement is not the result of an admission of liability by Chartwells, as the suit’s claims have been left undetermined.
Jeffrey Mills, who served as the executive director of the D.C. public school system’s Office of Food and Nutritional Services from 2010 until his termination in 2013, filed the lawsuit. Mills also filed a separate claim, arguing that his termination stemmed from his complaint about Chartwells.
Mills stated that during his time as executive director, he saw the private contractor place more concern on profit than the health and safety of young D.C. students. In a statement, he called this confusion of priorities a national concern, and encouraged all school districts to take a closer look into the motives and services of their food vendors.
Chartwells denies the suit’s claims, and has stated that it will resolve any issues with its food in order to continue to provide healthy meals. A company spokesperson stated that through working with Chartwells, D.C. Public Schools saved millions of dollars on quality food for students.
If you have been wrongfully terminated or retaliated against because you reported misconduct, meet with Steve Kardell at Whistleblower Law for Managers.