New law protects whistleblowers

October 1, 2008 12:11:42 PM PDT
State Assemblymember Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, said today that a whistleblower bill that he authored will make it easier for city and county employees to report waste, fraud and abuse.

Speaking at a news conference on the steps of the Oakland City Hall, Swanson said AB 2001, which was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last Saturday, "adds credibility to the system" and won broad bipartisan support "because it represents transparency and open government."

Swanson said he introduced the legislation at the request of Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby, who joined him at the news conference and said, "When I took office last year it became clear to me how important it was to be able to look whistleblowers in the eye and guarantee their confidentiality."

Swanson said whistleblowers who report abuses in state government have had protection for many years but city and county employees haven't had any protection until now.

Swanson said his legislation empowers city and county auditors and controllers to operate whistleblower hotlines.

All information received on the hotlines will be held by the auditor or controller, who can then determine whether an audit or investigation of a governmental entity is warranted, he said.

Swanson said no information will be revealed without the written permission of the caller, unless a law enforcement agency requests the information as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Ruby said a recent report by the Association of Fraud Examiners found that more than half of frauds uncovered in government agencies are detected by whistleblower tips and a typical organization, such as a city, loses 7 percent of its annual revenue to occupational fraud.

Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, who also participated in the news conference, said the state law is "more important than ever" in the wake of recent allegations that there were abuses under the regime of former City Administrator Deborah Edgerly, who was fired by Mayor Ron Dellums on July 1.

Ruby said the state law fits well with an ordinance passed by the Oakland City Council two weeks ago that includes a confidential hotline for the city's employees and residents to report abuse and prevents retaliation against whistleblowers.


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