House committee starts working on whistleblower law

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House Speaker Tim Miley (D-Harrison, 48) says he wants West Virginia to take a cue from the federal government on a whistleblower law.

House Speaker Tim Miley (D-Harrison, 48)

The False Claims Act, which was the first bill introduced in the state House of Delegates when the 2014 Regular Legislative Session opened Wednesday, would create a state law allowing people who report government fraud to collect a portion of any money recovered.

“In some ways, it will be a self-policing mechanism so that we don’t have to hire dozens and dozens of auditors to go through every state agency year after year,” Miley said in defense of the proposal on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“Instead, it will, hopefully, cause people to….conduct themselves in an appropriate manner out of fear of you reporting me, for example, of committing fraud or stealing money or embezzling money.”

The proposal would be based on qui tam, a writ in common law that allows a private individual who helps with a prosecution to receive all or part of the penalty.

Miley said any claims of fraudulent activity would be fully investigated.  He said that should satisfy concerns of critics of the proposal who call it “anti-business.”  “Anyone making a claim that they believe is spurious or meritless has to be vetted by a prosecutor to begin with,” he said.

“They look at the claim, decide whether there’s any merit to it and they investigate and, if they don’t think there’s any merit, they don’t pursue it.”

Members of the House Judiciary Committee first took up the False Claims Act, H.B. 4001, on Thursday morning.

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