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ATLANTA – DeKalb County, Georgia has agreed to pay $750,000 to resolve allegations that the County and its agency WorkSource DeKalb violated the False Claims Act by misusing grant funds for the Department of Labor’s On-the-Job Training (“OJT”) program, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia announced today.
“Rather than using the funds to provide training for its citizens who needed it the most, DeKalb County used those funds to subsidize its own payroll,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “Public servants who have the fiduciary responsibility of managing federal grant programs should never forget that taxpayers trust them to use grant funds properly. We will aggressively pursue all available remedies against individuals or entities that violate that trust.”
“This settlement resolves allegations that WorkSource DeKalb failed to ensure U.S. Department of Labor funds were used to benefit those who qualified for the Department's On-the-Job Training Programs. We will continue to investigate allegations of DOL grant fraud, especially when American workers may be deprived of training and employment opportunities,” said Rafiq Ahmad, Special Agent-in-Charge, Atlanta Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.
The OJT program is funded by Department of Labor grant funds that are currently authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (until July 2015, the Workforce Investment Act). Grant funds are distributed initially to the State of Georgia, who then distributes the funds to local “One-Stop” operators such as WorkSource DeKalb. The OJT program incentivizes employers to hire and train individuals who are either unemployed or employed but not earning self-sufficient wages by subsidizing the salaries for these employees. OJT funds may be used only to reimburse employers for the extraordinary cost of training individuals for whom the One-Stop operator has identified skills gaps that prevent their obtaining employment.
The civil settlement resolves the United States’ claims that, between January 1, 2013 and December 18, 2016, DeKalb County falsely certified compliance with Department of Labor regulations related to OJT. The government alleged that, contrary to these regulations, WorkSource DeKalb used OJT funds to subsidize the wages of County employees who were not eligible for the OJT program and who received no services from WorkSource DeKalb. Specifically, the United States contends that WorkSource DeKalb required that individuals that were not eligible for the program sign OJT paperwork as part of the onboarding process after they were hired by numerous County agencies on the open job market. For example, the County enrolled at least 42 firefighters in the OJT program who were hired as the most qualified applicants in a competitive application process. These individuals had never heard of WorkSource DeKalb prior to being hired, received no services from WorkSource DeKalb, and did not qualify for the OJT program. WorkSource DeKalb employees induced these newly hired firefighters to sign OJT paperwork by providing them free boots and gas cards, which were also paid for with Department of Labor grant funds.
In addition to the Fire and Rescue Department, the civil settlement encompasses the County’s use of OJT funds for employees of the following agencies: GIS Department; Human Resources; Emergency 911; District Attorney’s Office; Board of Commissioners Clerk; Planning and Sustainability; Chamber of Commerce; Sanitation, Information Systems; Child Advocacy; and Voter Registration. The settlement also resolves claims that WorkSource DeKalb enrolled ineligible employees with VetConnexx, a private employer.
The claims settled in the civil settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability. As part of its settlement with the United States, DeKalb County has also entered into a Corrective Action Plan with the Department of Labor, in which the County will be subject to reporting and monitoring requirements related to its administration of the OJT Program.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David A. O'Neal handled this matter for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.