Florida settles case with DEO whistleblower

MONTICELLO, Florida -- Dianne Parcell, 65, claims she lost her job with the Department of Economic Opportunity after making claims of fraud.

A circuit court in April ruled in favor of Parcell who filed a lawsuit of wrongful termination against her former employer. She claimed her firing was related to her raising the issue of how the department handled people.

"It's a pretty substantial settlement comparably for a whistleblower case," said Pat Frank, Parcell's lawyer.

While working for DEO, Parcell said she found close to 100 cases of people being improperly reported to collection agencies for reasons including death, bankruptcy or a run in the statute of limitations. But, she believes the number of cases is much higher, somewhere around 19,000.

The court made no ruling about her claims of fraud, but did find that she was wrongfully terminated and suffered damages, awarding her $53,000.

"I'm very glad it's over," Parcell said.

Kevin Cate, a spokesman and adviser for Charlie Crist, called the press conference Monday. Lawyers for Parcell says hiring Cate wasn't political in nature.

"We didn't coordinate with the Crist campaign. We retained the services of someone who also works for the Crist campaign," Frank said.

The DEO responded by releasing this statement:

"Ms. Parcell's claims are meritless, and records about the trial and her history at the department are publicly available. To the extent the press conference was coordinated by a political campaign, we would refer you to the various political campaigns for their responses."

Parcell further claims she reported the issue to Governor Rick Scott's office and that nothing was done.

"We got no interest from the governor's office, no response, no help, no assistance," she said.

The governor's campaign spokesman sent an email response saying:

"Florida's government has over 150,000 employees – and, in a system that large, there are always bound to be employee conflicts. But in typical trial lawyer fashion, Charlie Crist and his campaign are doing what they're good at – using lawsuits for partisan political purposes. Charlie Crist is also good at losing jobs – and today's stunt can't distract from the fact that he lost 832,000 of them while he was governor." - Greg Blair, Rick Scott for Florida Spokesman.

Parcell said she's coming forward now because she believes the 19,000 cases of fraud out there haven't been addressed.


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