School food vendor pays $19 million to settle school overcharges false claims act suit

The largest food vendor for the District of Columbia public schools will pay $19 million to settle a False Claims Act whistleblower lawsuit for overcharge the city and for mismanaging the school meal programs with food coming late, spoiled or in short supply.

The whistleblower is a former director of the Office of Food and Nutritional Services for D.C. Public Schools, Jeffrey Mills. Mills was fired from his job in 2013. Last year he settled a lawsuit with the school system for $450,000 saying he was terminated for revealing the school systems mismanagement of the food contract.

“I hope that my lawsuit against Chartwells and the settlement announced today will help improve the food programs for D.C.’s school children, which has always been my goal,” Mills said in a statement issued Friday by Phillips & Cohen, a Washington-based law firm that filed Mills’ whistleblower lawsuit in 2013.

“The issue of private food vendors prioritizing profits over the well-being of students is a national concern,” Mills said. “I urge all school districts using private food vendors to examine their contracts and the performance of those vendors.”

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers but not Mr. Mills.