12/10/2021Pennsylvania: Third Circuit Court Of Appeals Protects Philadelphia Photo Ticket Program
Federal appeals court cites technical grounds to throw out whistleblower lawsuit alleging red light camera fraud in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
By Richard Diamond
The Third Circuit US Court of Appeals on Thursday cited technical grounds in throwing out evidence of corruption in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, photo ticketing program. A three-judge panel rejected the whistleblower lawsuit filed by former municipal employees who claimed the red light camera contractor Conduent (Xerox) had defrauded the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) of at least $9 million in the course of securing a $100 million contract. When the whistleblowers, Andrew J. Dankanich and Nicholas A. Marrandino, brought their specific complaints to city officials, the city spent a total of six minutes considering the allegations before dismissing the claim.
Dankanich and Marrandino are not random individuals making random accusations. Dankanich was the manager who ran Philadelphia's red light camera program and Marrandino was a quality assurance officer for the PPA. Dankanich provided extensive evidence that innocent motorists were receiving red light camera tickets (view evidence). He and Marrandino brought these charges under the city's false claims ordinance, and they insisted that the only reason their complaint was rejected was because the fraud allegation implicated Vincent Fenerty, the politically connected former executive director of PPA.
The lower court ruled last year that the whistleblowers' case failed because there is no legal requirement for the city to sanction fraudulent conduct.
"The ordinance does not require that the city pursue the action, US District Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg wrote in his 2020 decision. "Rather, the ordinance gives the city solicitor complete discretion as to whether to bring an action based on the proposed complaint or authorize the individual who submitted the proposed complaint to do so on the city's behalf."
The three-judge appellate panel on Thursday agreed with Goldberg's reasoning, ruling that the city solicitor's denial of the whistleblower complaint could not be appealed unless they had a property interest in the outcome of the decision. The judges found the possibility of winning the suit was too remote to count as a property interest.
"The appellants' right to receive an undetermined share of the proceeds in the event a lawsuit is permitted and succeeds is far too remote and speculative to constitute a protected interest," Judge Kent A. Jordan wrote for the appellate panel.
A copy of the ruling is available in a 200k PDF file at the source link below.