Illinois Whistleblower Protection and Reward Act

Public Act 87-662

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On September 20, 1991, Gov. Jim Edgar signed the Illinois Whistleblower Protection and Reward Act (Public Act 87-662) proposed by then-State Treasurer Pat Quinn and sponsored by Rep. David McAfee and Sen. Tom Dunn.

The Whistleblower law rewarded taxpayers -- including government employees -- who report corruption against state government by unscrupulous public officials or private contractors. It also protected whistleblowers from retribution, covered their legal expenses, and awarded whistleblowers up to 30 percent of the money recovered for the public.

The philosophy behind whistleblower protections for taxpayers originates from a legal principle known as qui tam, which enables anyone with evidence of public fraud to sue the perpetrator and share in any recovery.

Early in the Civil War, some Union troops discovered their gunpowder had been diluted with sawdust and their newly-purchased mules were sick. They had been scammed by private contractors. An outraged President Abraham Lincoln signed the 1863 False Claims Act, which included the first known whistleblower protections in the United States. The idea was to protect and reward citizens who blow the whistle on fraud or waste. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed a modernized version of the federal False Claims Act.

One Illinois whistleblower was in the national spotlight in 1998 when a Herrin, grandmother of Illinois, named Evelyn Knoob earned one of the largest whistleblower rewards ever. A $35,000-year supervisor at Blue Cross-Blue Shield Illinois, Mrs. Knoob uncovered massive Medicare fraud over an 11-year period. The health insurance giant agreed to pay $144 million back to taxpayers under the False Claims Act, Mrs. Knoob received $29 million as her reward for blowing the whistle on fraud against the taxpayers.

On February 2, 1999, Pat Quinn and attorney Ron Osman joined to organize a grassroots campaign to enact local whistleblower ordinances.

In 2008, the Illinois Whistleblower Protection and Reward Act was expanded to cover all local Illinois governments and give greater protections to whistleblowers in a law (Public Act 95-128) sponsored by Rep. Julie Hamos.