LOS ANGELES: The Los Angeles City Attorney today announced plans to sue Fleishman-Hillard over claims that it allegedly defrauded the city when billing on a $3 million-a-year contract with the Department of Water and Power (DWP).
"My office is preparing a lawsuit to get back the ratepayers' money. This is more than sloppy billing; it appears to be outright fraud against the ratepayers of this city,? said City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo in a statement.
Matt Szabo, spokesman for Delgadillo, said that city attorneys had been working to prepare the suit overnight, and it could be filed as early as this morning.
The DWP also issued a statement yesterday, saying it ?takes very seriously charges of overbilling or false billing by any contractor. The LADWP is looking into the allegations of false billings by Fleishman-Hillard, as reported in today?s Los Angeles Times, and is working with the City Controller?s Office to take the appropriate action.?
The legal action comes as a response to the Times story, which quoted one on-the-record and several anonymous ex-employees saying that they had been asked to inflate billings. The paper added today that more employees had come forward to say the fraudulent billing practices may have extended to other corporate clients as well.
Fleishman-Hillard chairman and CEO John Graham was not available for immediate comment.
In a statement, Richard Kline, regional president and LA GM, said:
?These allegations about past events in our Los Angeles office are very disturbing, if true. We are not discounting any information as we continue our investigations.
?We can say with certainty, and unequivocally, that there is no mandate, no model, and no policy at Fleishman-Hillard that requires or suggests 10 billable hours per day. Moreover, we find the very notion of fabricating billable hours abhorrent and in violation of everything we stand for as a company. It goes against everything we have stood for in 58 years as a company.?
Kline?s mention of ?10 billable hours per day? was in response to another former employee who told the Times that was what he was required to bill while employed there.
In his statement, Kline denied that, saying that the former employee, whom he identified as Keith Pillow, billed 10 hours on only 13 days during the 14 months he worked at Fleishman-Hillard. Kline said Pillow?s ?average billable hours per week was six hours per day.?