…A QUI TAM SEMINAR FOR MENIFEE
But only if Menifee citizens want it.
A date for the seminar has not been set and in fact, Menifee citizens are currently unaware that they may need to schedule the seminar. Instead, they were forced to sit back in helpless embarrassment and watch their city officials find repeated and significant overpayments to vendors and consultants.
To be fair, no Menifee citizen has even invited Zak to come to their fair city to introduce this useful citizen activist strategy. But I am graciously extending the invitation, nonetheless.
Why re-invent the wheel, or, in this case, the hammer?
As you will soon learn if you read on to the bottom of the page, years ago, while digging around Lake Elsinore’s corrupt political regime as a prime contributor for Elsinore Magazine, and out of frustration, Zak found a way for commoners without law degrees, people like you and I, to effectively sue politicians and bureaucrats for public monies falsely taken and pocketed by individuals or their companies. He found a serious hammer to pound the corrupt within the civil legal system.
The Hammer for this task is the California False Claims Act, Government Code 12650-12656. I am providing a link for your easy reference, as follows:
This code provides an avenue for recovery of monies spent and received improperly. In Menifee’s current situation, where a company, a consultant, or perhaps even a law firm, have allegedly overbilled for the services, any private citizen with that knowledge prior to reading about it in the newspaper, could have filed a Qui Tam lawsuit on behalf of the citizens of Menifee.
Qui Tam (qui tam pro domino rege quam pro sic ipso in hoc parte sequitur ) is abbreviated Latin for “he who sues on behalf of the king as well as himself” and comes from old English common law. Its first use in America occurred during the Civil War after greedy, corrupt manufacturers sold defective shoes to the U.S. government for its Union soldiers.
When the troopers put the boots on and found themselves marching during rain storms, a common occurrence, the boots quickly fell apart due to their shabby construction. Since the federal government was too busy fighting a war of survival to seek redress from the companies, so they enacted a federal Qui Tam statute so that persons with personal knowledge of corruption could file lawsuits on behalf of the federal government.
In the 1980s, the state of California enacted a similar statute.
In the 1990s, Zak used that statute to recover money from two persons falsely taking money from the citizens of Lake Elsinore. They were then-Mayor Pam Brinley, who wrongfully let the city pay for her grandchildren’s plush health insurance policy and former Elsinore City Manager, Ron Molendyk, who was given a sweetheart deal by his successor to supposedly find Parks and Recreation “grants” for Elsinore.
Molendyk impudently billed the city of Elsinore for $24,000 in six months, billing for meetings that never took place. And with people who later repeatedly denied knowing him. He ultimately paid every penny back. As part of the settlement agreement, the plaintiffs agreed not to pursue the same claims through other cities, where similar billing events could be established.
So powerful was the False Claim Act, that Brinley and Molendyk each settled their cases before they went to trial, returning all of the money taken by them back to Elsinore’s taxpayers. All at no cost to the city for the lawsuit.
In fact, my good friend and longtime environmental activist, Gene Frick, thought that False Claim Act lawsuits, if relentlessly applied statewide, could change state politics. A currently-sitting Associate Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court once asked Zak to bring this law to Nevada, giving Zak permission to drop the judge’s name as a referral. Wow, the stuff you sometimes discuss at cocktail parties.
The key elements of the Act are, as follows:
The threshold for a lawsuit is $500. That seems like chump change given the numbers we read about the newspaper.
Fraud does not have to be proven. Only the “fact” of false billing. Proving intent is what makes fraud lawsuits so difficult to prosecute. But intent is not a necessary element under the False Claims Act.
You do have to be the one to find the false billing; you can’t have read or heard about it from the media so you have to do some homework, which amounts to following the paper trails found in the warrants list provided with your city Council agendas. It can be an easy and profitable hobby for the retired, as a successful Qui Tam plaintiff is rewarded by the statute with percentage of the proceeds recovered, up to one third of the recovery. The rest goes back to the city. Again, fair enough.
You are not suing the citizens of your city, usually an unpopular thing in a city strapped for cash like Wildomar; rather, you are suing on behalf of the citizens so there is no cost to the city for the lawsuit, the person accused of taking the money has to defend themselves and pay for their own lawyers. The city’s lawyers sit on the sidelines, their expensive hands folded quietly in their laps.
The suing citizen gets to recover his legal fees from the greedy as there is an attorney fees clause in the act so plaintiff attorneys are willing to take this type of case on a contingency basis. Zak always uses the Qui Tam Queen, a wonderful Orange County attorney for a his recoveries.
The Statute of Limitations is 10 years from the act; three years from discovery so there’s plenty of time to go back and dig through the records.
Treble damages can be awarded by the jury for taking the money in the first place. For those of you in Juniper Flats, that means three times what they took. As a result, the cost of defending themselves for taking money they were not entitled to are so onerous that they usually settle prior to trial. Can you imagine facing a jury of angry taxpayers?
Qui Tam truly puts the fear of God, or fear of informed citizens, into corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.
While Zak was doing this in Lake Elsinore, a prominent and powerful political consulting firm in Riverside was scared sh*tless that these lawsuits would become popular and spread to every city in the county, which would likely have included many of his clients.
Reading about the recent events in Menifee, that would be a good thing.
So Zak is extending an offer to any concerned motivated citizen activist living in Menifee to meet with Zak at a meeting place of their choice so as to provide further information on this wonderful tool. We apparently don’t need it in Wildomar at this time. So, as good neighbors, we’ll let you borrow our hammer for a while.
Zak found two instances of false billing and supported two lawsuits under the false claim act, resulting in two rapid settlements prior to trial, returning monies directly back to Elsinore’s coffers as a result.
Zak may have better winning record in lawsuits on behalf of Elsinore than two locals have in suing Wildomar and Riverside County. A False Claim Act lawsuit is certainly more palatable than what they are doing.
Interested persons may contact Zak at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I sip decaf coffee during the presentation so I suggest a Starbucks for a meeting place.