[Alexandria (VA) City Architect Henry] Lewis started raising hell and — to make a long story short — [Jeremy] McPike got him fired. An Alexandria jury found that Lewis had been wrongfully terminated, according to the anti-retaliation provisions of the Virginia Fraud against Taxpayers Act, and awarded him $104,000 in back pay. The city is appealing the case.
Big wasteful government isn’t only a federal phenomenon. And if you’re an honest government employee in the City of Alexandria in the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C., you better watch out. Because if you “blow the whistle” on inappropriate, unethical, or improper government spending, your bosses will retaliate and fire you for speaking up on behalf of the tax-payers.
All across America, billions of taxpayer dollars are wasted or mismanaged by local governments every year because of little-to-no government transparency or accountability. Alexandria, Virginia, provides an example of why.
Ironically, local government, which is arguably the “closest to the people” is in many ways the most shielded and protected from public scrutiny and questioning. Only a select few who either work in local government, or watch the actions of their local representatives closely, catch these cases of waste, fraud, and abuse. Their stories are often covered up because the media is more drawn to high profile cases at the state and Federal levels.
Take the case of former Alexandria City Architect, Henry Lewis.
As the project manager on one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken by the City of Alexandria, Lewis was responsible for “watching the dollars” as the project progressed. Building a high tech police headquarters, estimated to cost roughly $80 million plus another $20 million for furnishings, required the oversight of a skilled and experienced project manager, and Lewis was handpicked by top city officials to lead the project.
The Howard University-educated architect was a diligent project panager who worked to ensure that this massive project came in on-time and on-budget and he excelled at this role, receiving several sterling performance reviews and even a pay raise.
However, things began to change after “Director of General Services” Jeremy McPike got involved.
Jeremy McPike, as a top government bureaucrat in Alexandria’s “Department of General Services,” was ultimately responsible for oversight of the project. As McPike took the reins, Lewis started to notice that Whiting-Turner, the contractor, began submitting suspect invoices for materials stored off-site which hadn’t been verified to actually exist. They started to bill extra for work that should have been covered by the original contract.
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Henry Lewis v. City of Alexandria, Virginia, Complaint (23-page PDF)
Former city architect Henry Lewis says he was fired for trying to stop a contractor from cutting costs and overcharging, according to an article in Virginia Lawyers Weekly.
An Alexandria jury has awarded former city architect Henry Lewis back pay under a new whistleblower law for his efforts to stop a contractor from cutting corners and overcharging on the new Alexandria Police Department headquarters, according to Virginia Lawyers Weekly.
According to the report, an Alexandria jury on March 8 awarded $104,050 in back pay to Lewis, who has 35 years of construction management experience and served as a senior project manager for the $81-million building on Wheeler Avenue.
Alexandria City Attorney Jim Banks told Patch the city plans to appeal.
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Lewis expressed concerns with contractor Whiting-Turner on the police project and a related project he was working on at 133 S. Quaker Lane, according to court documents obtained by Patch.
For example, Lewis’ court filing says roof trusses to be used in building 133 S. Quaker were made of wood, as required, but they were delivered to the construction site “covered with mold and warped.”
They were replaced, but Whiting-Turning shortly afterward, according to the case filing, requested that Lewis be removed from the police project and replaced by McPike. However, McPike could not replace Lewis because McPike is not a licensed architect.
The case also claims Whiting-Turner submitted false invoices and received payment on those invoices from the city despite Lewis’ effort to bring the problem to his superiors’ attention.
Ultimately, Lewis claims in court documents that his continuing efforts to stop fraud and false claims against the city resulted in his termination.
“Jury Awards City Whistleblower in Wrongful Termination Case,” by Sharon McLoone, Patch, April 5, 2013.
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