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Campbell v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 23, 2013

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Re Document No.: 7.

For JENNIFER B. CAMPBELL, Plaintiff: Alan Lescht, ALAN LESCHT & ASSOCIATES, Washington, DC.

For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, A Municipal Corporation, WAYNE M. TURNAGE, In his official capacity as Director, District of Columbia Department of Health Care Finance, Defendants: Sarah L. Knapp, LEAD ATTORNEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC; Brant W. Martin, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC.


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RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge.

Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss


The plaintiff in this action claims that her former employer, a District of Columbia

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administrative agency, wrongfully terminated her for disclosing improprieties in the bidding process for government contracts relating to the implementation of health benefit exchanges. She also alleges that, as her termination unfolded, officers within the agency leaked defamatory statements about her to the media. Five months after her termination, the plaintiff filed this lawsuit against the District of Columbia and one of its officers in his official capacity, asserting claims for constitutional defamation and various violations of D.C. law. The defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Because the plaintiff has failed to plead the " protected disclosure" required for a claim under the D.C. False Claims Act, the Court will grant the defendants' motion as to that claim but grant leave for the plaintiff to amend her complaint. Because the claims against the individual officer of the D.C. government are duplicative of the claims against the District, the Court will merge those claims and dismiss the officer as a party. The Court will deny the remainder of the defendants' motion.


In her complaint, Jennifer B. Campbell alleges that she is an experienced healthcare consultant, having acted as an associate director of a best-practice think tank and principal of a healthcare consulting corporation, both based in Washington, D.C. See Compl. ¶ 15, ECF No. 1. In 2008, she was hired by the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance (" DHCF" ) as Associate Director of the Office of Utilization Management within DHCF's Health Care Accountability Administration. See id. Eventually, Ms. Campbell was promoted to the position of Chief Operating Officer at DHCF--a position in which she served as the top advisor to Wayne Turnage, the Director of DHCF and a defendant in this action. See id. ¶ 16.

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (" PPACA" ), Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (2010) (codified as amended at scattered sections of U.S.C.), setting forth many structural changes to the American healthcare system. A major part of the PPACA involves the establishment of health benefit " exchanges," which serve as online marketplaces for health insurance. See generally 42 U.S.C. § § 18301-44 (Supp. V 2011). Some of the exchanges are to be state-run, and the District of Columbia enacted the Health Benefit Exchange Authority Establishment Act of 2011, No. 19-94, 59 D.C. Reg. 213 (codified as amended at D.C. Code § § 31-3171.01-.08 (Supp. 2012)), setting up an authority to oversee the implementation of the District's health benefit exchange. See also Compl. ¶ ¶ 8-10, ECF No. 1. The District looked to the private sector for information technology support in creating and managing its exchange (the " DCAS Project" ), presenting the opportunity for a valuable government contract, estimated at over $70 million. See id. ¶ 11. Ms. Campbell alleges that Mr. Turnage maintained an " open door policy" with contractors, allowing vendors to meet with him in person. See id. ¶ 18. However, she alleges that his door was " open" to only a few preselected vendors--a practice Ms. Campbell urged him to change, and to either allow all contractors visitation, or none. See id.

CGI Group, Inc. (" CGI" ) is a large information technology and consulting company that sought to do business with the District as part of the DCAS Project. See id. ¶ 19. Ms. Campbell alleges that CGI had a " pre-established relationship" with Mr. Turnage as a result of his prior work with the company, and that CGI was in

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negotiations with DHCF for the health information technology project (the " HIT Project" ), another contract valued at approximately $11 million. See id. ¶ ¶ 19-20. Upon her review of CGI's draft contract for the HIT Project, Ms. Campbell identified several issues with the contract and called a meeting with DHCF's contract division lead and other members of the COO staff to discuss the project. See id. ¶ 23. Her specific concerns about the contract included a missing liquidated damages clause and inconsistencies between the draft contract and CGI's best and final offer. See id. After the meeting, the contracts division staff discussed these concerns with CGI, who was resistant to addressing them. See id. ¶ 24.

CGI later met with Mr. Turnage, Ms. Campbell, and other DHCF staff members to discuss its bid for the DCAS Project. See id. ¶ 26. At this meeting, it was brought to CGI's attention that the District requires that at least 35 percent of any contract over $250,000 go to a qualified small, local, or disadvantaged business, known as a certified business enterprise or " CBE." See id. ¶ 27; see also D.C. Code § 2-218.46(a)(2) (2001). CGI was not a CBE, and thus reached out to Ms. Campbell to discuss potential CBEs with which it could partner for the DCAS Project. See Compl. ¶ ¶ 29-30, 33, ECF No. 1. Ms. Campbell alleges that she alerted CGI to the fact that the District makes performance reviews of its contractors publicly available, and suggested that CGI review them. See id. ¶ ¶ 33-34.

According to Ms. Campbell's allegations, CGI later met with Mr. Turnage and other DHCF staff without her presence. See id. ¶ 35. DHCF later placed Ms. Campbell on administrative leave, and then terminated her for cause in June 2012. See id. ¶ ¶ 41, 48. Ms. Campbell later received a letter from the District of Columbia, claiming that she had " acted inappropriately and violated District ethical standards . . . by giving preferential treatment to any person, impeding government efficiency or economy; and by affecting adversely the confidence of the public in the integrity of the government." Id. ¶ 57. The letter went on to state that COMPASS Consulting Services, Inc. (" COMPASS" )--a company that was considering a potential partnership with CGI--had accused Ms. Campbell of, among other things, instructing CGI to call off its potential partnership with COMPASS. See id. ¶ ¶ 22, 60-61, 63. The media also caught wind of Ms. Campbell's termination, and both the Washington City Paper and the Washington Post published articles describing her departure for allegedly steering contracts toward a particular CBE. See id. ¶ ¶ 49, 66. Ms. Campbell alleges that information was leaked by DHCF, and that the allegations in the media and the District's letter are untrue. See id. ¶ ¶ 45, 53, 59, 62, 64.

Since her termination, Ms. Campbell has been unable to find employment in the field of healthcare finance. [1] See id. ¶ 78. She places the blame on the publicity and false allegations surrounding her termination, and alleges that at least one potential employer has stated that, while she would have been a " perfect fit" for an open position, hiring her would have been too much of a public and political liability risk. See id. ¶ 79.

On October 31, 2012, Ms. Campbell filed a complaint against Mr. Turnage and the District of ...

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