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United States ex rel. Bias v. Tangipahoa Parish School Bd.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 15, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, EX REL. RONALD BIAS
v.
TANGIPAHOA PARISH SCHOOL BOARD, ET AL

For Ronald Bias, United State of America, ex rel, Plaintiff: Paul F. Bell, LEAD ATTORNEY, Bell Law Firm, LLC, Baton Rouge, LA; Alan F. Kansas, Law Office of Alan Kansas, LLC, Terrytown, LA.

For Tangipahoa Parish School Board, Michael Stant, in his official capacity, Carl J Foster, in his official capacity, Defendants: Robert L. Hammonds, LEAD ATTORNEY, Courtney Terell Joiner, Danielle Ann Boudreaux, Melissa Losch, Pamela Wescovich Dill, Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice, LLP, Baton Rouge, LA.

For United States of America, Interested Party: Andre Jude Lagarde, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office (New Orleans), New Orleans, LA.

Page 536

ORDER & REASONS

Eldon E. Fallon, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment from relator Ronald Bias, (Rec. Doc. 100), and the sole remaining Defendant Tangipahoa Parish School Board (" TPSB" ), (Rec. Doc. 103). Having considered the applicable law, the parties' briefs, and the evidence submitted, the Court now issues this order and reasons.

I. BACKGROUND

This action arises out of an alleged misappropriation of United States Marine Corps funds and resulting retaliation. On November 1, 2006, Realtor Ronald Bias retired from the Marine Corps as a lieutenant colonel. Following his retirement, he was employed by the Tangipahoa Parish School Board as a senior marine instructor for the Junior Officers' Training Corps (" JROTC" ) at Amite High School. On June 18, 2009, the United States Marine Corps contacted Mr. Bias to inform him that it had mistakenly allowed him to retire too early--he had served only 18 years, which is short of the required 20 years. As a result of this error, the Marine Corps had paid Mr. Bias $106,000 for which he had been ineligible. Accordingly, he was provided with the option of repaying those benefits or re-enlisting for a period of 15 months so as to become eligible for retirement. Mr. Bias chose the latter.

Ordinarily, JROTC positions are filled by retired officers who are certified by the Marine Corps but employed by the schools themselves, as Mr. Bias had been. Perhaps in recognition of the difficulty caused by its error, the Marine Corps varied from its usual policy and assigned Mr. Bias to the JROTC at Amite High School, where he was to continue as a senior marine instructor. Unlike the usual JROTC officer, he would be employed by the Marine Corps. He received his orders on July 10, 2009, and began work shortly thereafter. According to Mr. Bias, he was informed that he would remain at the Amite High School assignment for 15 months, at which point he could either re-enlist or retire.

As the senior marine instructor, Mr. Bias supervised Mr. Foster, a marine instructor and retired master sergeant in the Marine Corps, and reported to Mr. Stant, principal of Amite High School. Both Mr. Foster and Mr. Stant were employees of the Tangipahoa Parish School Board. Soon after he was assigned to Amite High School, Mr. Bias alleges that he became aware that Mr. Foster planned to request that the Marine Corps reimburse him for non-JROTC activities, including an out-of-state trip by the school's cross-country team. Mr. Bias then notified both Mr. Stant and the Marine Corps of Mr. Foster's intentions. However, with Mr. Stant's approval, Mr. Foster persisted and made the request, which was denied. As a result, in part, Mr. Foster was decertified as a senior instructor with the JROTC. Mr. Bias alleges that, because he had reported the misconduct, Mr. Stant contacted Mr. Bias' Marine Corps supervisor and asked the supervisor to transfer Mr. Bias.

On April 12, 2010, Mr. Bias was informed that he would be transferred if he

Page 537

did not retire. Mr. Bias asserts that this transfer constituted retaliation. (In addition to bringing this action, Mr. Bias also reported Mr. Stant's conduct to the Inspector General of the Marine Corps on October 26, 2010, who determined that the transfer was not reprisal because Mr. Bias had previously been informed that he would be transferred from Amite High School after the 15 months he needed to obtain retired status had elapsed.) Mr. Bias retired on October 31, 2010, and was reemployed as the senior marine instructor at Amite High School on November 3, 2010.

Mr. Bias brought this action on September 5, 2014, against the Tangipahoa Parish School Board as well as Mr. Stant and Mr. Foster, in their official capacities. (Rec. Doc. 1). In his complaint, he asserts (1) an False Claims Act (" FCA" ) qui tam claim for the false billing of goods and services not rendered, (2) an FCA qui tam claim for conspiracy to submit false claims, and (3) an FCA retaliation claim. On January 7, 2013, the United States of America filed a notice of its election to decline intervention. (Rec. Doc. 2). On January 15, 2013, the complaint was unsealed and served. (Rec. Doc. 3). On February 15, 2013, Mr. Bias moved for leave to file an amended complaint (Rec. Doc. 16), which the Court granted on March 6, 2013 (Rec. Doc. 25). In the amended complaint, Mr. Bias brought additional claims, this time including Mr. Stant and Mr. Foster in both their official and individual capacities. (Rec. Doc. 26). The amended complaint includes (4) a § 1983 claim for violations of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, (5) a state law claim for violations of Article I, Section 7 of the Louisiana Constitution, and (6) a § ...


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