Yee: Too often whistleblower complaints are just swept under the rug

SACRAMENTO – Today, the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance approved legislation that would require public agencies to disclose the findings from formal complaints of waste, fraud, and abuse. Under current law, such whistleblower investigations are sealed and the public is never made aware of any findings or if any action was taken in response.

SB 1336, authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), would continue to maintain the privacy interests of those initiating an investigation and any witnesses involved, but would allow the public to be made aware of the findings from an investigative audit.

“Too often whistleblower complaints are just swept under the rug,” said Yee.  “SB 1336 will allow the public to have confidence that improper governmental activities are being properly investigated and that when a complaint is substantiated, officials take appropriate disciplinary action.”

The bill is being praised by open government advocates as necessary to hold government officials accountable.

“Whistleblower programs’ success depends on two factors: protection of the innocent and exposure of fraud, waste and other abuses and who caused them,” said Terry Francke, General Counsel for Californians Aware. “This bill protects the innocent by providing anonymity for whistleblowers, interviewed witnesses and those cleared of wrongdoing. It requires reporting of investigative findings, what was done about uncovered problems, and identification of who was responsible for them.”

“This bill carefully balances the protection of those who come forward with knowledge of criminal conduct, waste, fraud or abuse and allowing the public to see for itself what allegations came to light and what the agency has or hasn’t done in response,” said Jim Ewert, General Counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association. “This process serves to strengthen the public’s trust in its government and discourages behavior that destroys that trust.”

SB 1336 will likely next be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee.


Contact: Adam J. Keigwin,
(916) 651-4008