This page is the third section of an interview between Gary Farmer, a Florida False Claims Act attorney, and Tony Munter, a whistleblower attorney in DC. Below, they discuss issues with the way the Attorney General has interpreted the Florida False Claims Act. (Click here for Part 1 and Part 2). Tony Munter is NOT licensed in the jurisdiction of Florida.
Gary: So basically Chapter 68.084 subsection (1) of the statute says once the case has been filed by a private person, the state can intervene if they want. And then 68.084 subsection (2) says the state can dismiss the case at any time. Then subsection (3) says if the state has declined to intervene then the Relator has the right to proceed with the action. So my interpretation and every lawyer with whom I’ve ever discussed this issue and every legislator by the way when this issue was before them a few years ago all believe that that language meant that the language in subsection (2) about the state being able to dismiss at any time applies only to cases where it had intervened.
Gary: Yes, and so I’ll tell you the story. Remember too before I tell you the story the statute also says that the rules of State civil procedure apply. So in our case, our client a guy by the name of Barati. He is a scientist for Motorola or was. Motorola has an $8 million contract with the State of Florida to upgrade and modernize and really totally revamp the State’s fingerprint identification system. So really important system, really important contract used by all of our law enforcement and by Department of Children and Families for child abuse, background screen, all that kind of stuff. Long story short, we alleged Motorola falsified under oath five different progress reports indicating that the system was meeting certain milestone tests in order to get its progress payments under the contract. In fact, the system wasn’t working at all. I shouldn’t say it wasn’t working at all but it had glitches. It was locking up at 20% capacity. It was kicking out false-positive identifications. There were problems. Our Complaint alleged Motorola lied to get its money. It got so bad that a French company came in and bought this division of Motorola and then the state had to pay another $5 million to the French company to come in and fix what Motorola had done.
So we filed our whistleblower action. The Attorney General at the time did not ever meet with our client and us. As far as we know the Attorney General did a cursory investigation if any and then declined the case. Okay. Fine. We’re off to the races. I wasn’t involved initially. An attorney by the name of Dave Moye had the case initially but he then brought me in as co-counsel. So the case has been litigated, discovery, a couple of depositions, we defeat a motion to dismiss, defeat a motion for summary judgment. Now we’re on the trial docket, getting ready to go to trial. Case management conference is set for a few weeks before trial. The night before the case management conference, the Attorney General filed a document entitled Notice of Voluntary Dismissal.