United States ex rel. Citynet, LLC v. Gianato, No. 18-1575 (4th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Citynet filed a qui tam action against West Virginia officials, alleging that defendants defrauded the United States when obtaining federal funding for a program to improve broadband connectivity for West Virginia residents, in violation of the False Claims Act (FCA). Specifically, Citynet alleged that Defendants Gianato and Given, respectively the Director of the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the State Technology Officer, along with other defendants, knowingly submitted false statements and records to the United States as part of their application for funding under the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and, once the funding was obtained, made false claims in drawing down funds under the Program.
The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's immunity ruling and remanded with instructions to deny Gianato and Given's claim of qualified immunity. Because the district court's ruling was contingent on the answer to the threshold legal question of whether qualified immunity may be invoked as a defense to FCA claims, the court exercised appellate jurisdiction and held that qualified immunity does not apply to protect government officials from claims against them for fraud under the Act.