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National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges to Pay for Grant Fraud

On March 10, 2008, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) agreed to settle a grant fraud case for $300,000.

After being promoted to Special Projects Manager of the NCJFCJ, Serena Hulbert requested access to documents related to grants, budgets and expenditures concerning the project she was managing. After several of her requests were refused, the NCJFCJ finally provided some of the records. She then questioned numerous allocations from the grant money; when she continued to ask about the transactions, the workplace became hostile. Other employees were instructed not to talk to her and she was told not to talk to them. Even so, she continued to question grant-related expenditures and, in April 2005, was labeled a troublemaker and fired. Three months later she filed a wrongful termination and qui tam suit in federal district court, seeking monetary damages. The U.S. Department of Justice intervened on her behalf.

The NCJFCJ had received approximately $97 million in federal grants since 1985, mostly from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The NCJFCJ is a non-profit organization established in Nevada in 1937. Its purported purpose is to improve the effectiveness of the nation’s juvenile justice system by providing training, technical assistance and research.

An investigation by the Justice Department, however, determined that the NCJFCJ had “collected grant funds by billing for fictitious workers, double-billing for overhead, and filling out employee time sheets ‘to meet predetermined billing targets, regardless of the actual hours worked on each grant by the employee.’”

Among the NCJFCJ’s creative accounting practices was an expenditure of $95,000 for services rendered by the husband of Hulbert’s replacement, Mary Mentaberry. Mr. Mentaberry received the payment for negotiating property leases for the NCJFCJ from 1997 to 2001. In 2001 and 2002, the NCJFCJ paid another employee’s husband $2,000 to act as a computer consultant. The hiring of employees’ spouses was in violation of the Justice Department’s conflict-of-interest regulations.

Wanting to avoid exposure of its less-than-honorable use of the grant money, the NCJFCJ elected to pay $300,000 to the Justice Department to settle the fraud and conflict-of-interest claims. All pleadings except the order dismissing the case were kept under seal. Hulbert has since filed a second lawsuit, renewing her wrongful termination claim against the NCJFCJ.
See: United States ex rel Serena Hulbert v. National Council of Family Court Judges, U.S.D.C. ND Nev., Case No. 3:05-cv-00403-HDM-VPC and Hulbert v. National Council of Family Court Judges, U.S.D.C. ND Nev., Case No. 3:08-cv-00219-ECR/RAM. Documents related to the lawsuit are available on PLN’s website.

Additional source: Youth Today

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