Four years ago, Francis X. Dougherty was fired after revealing the existence of a $7.5 million no-bid security camera contract within the Philadelphia School District. Now, he has won a major victory in his whistleblower lawsuit against the district, with the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that he was exercising his first amendment rights by revealing the illegal contract.
After becoming aware of the no-bid contract with IBS Communications Inc., a firm with a minute amount of experience in working with school districts and one that was not on Pennsylvania’s list of approved emergency work vendors, Dougherty reported the contract to the Philadelphia Inquirer. He told the paper that Superintendent of Schools Arlene C. Ackerman pushed for the contract. He was promptly fired in April 2011.
Michael D. Fisher, a judge in the U.S. Circuit court, wrote in his opinion that Dougherty’s report to the Philadelphia Inquirer was an action deserving of first amendment protection, and that the school district violated that right by terminating him because of the action. The court also determined that Ackerman and two other administrators that were involved with firing Dougherty should have known that their actions were wrong, and that despite them being public officials, whey were not immune from legal action.
With this ruling by the circuit court, Dougherty’s case against the school district and administrators will move on to trial in a U.S. District Court. It is merely one of four lawsuits that have been filed against the district in relation to the controversial contracts issued for the surveillance cameras.
If you work for a school district or educational organization and become aware of a similar illegal contract or fraud scheme, meet with the experienced Dallas attorneys at Whistleblower Law for Managers.