A whistleblower who found 97 instances where the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity had inappropriately reported Floridians to collection agencies for alleged unemployment overpayments has won her lawsuit against the state, according to her attorney.
Dianne Parcell was a 30-year employee of the state. She formerly worked for the Department of Economic Opportunity.
Parcell reported the findings of "systemic" fraud to her supervisors but was told to drop the investigation, she said. She submitted her whistleblower letter in August 2012 and was placed on administrative leave the following day, before later being fired.
An investigation revealed that as many as 19,000 Floridians had been wrongly reported to collection agencies, said Keisha Rice, Parcell's attorney. Rice said she was bringing the case to the media because the 19,000 cases had not yet been resolved. Parcell won her case in Leon County (Fla.) Circuit Court in April. A jury awarded her more than $50,000 in damages.
Rice estimated that the overall liability to the state could be as much as $1.9 billion. She said one woman who was improperly reported already had demanded $100,000 from the state.