YEE: CSU NEEDS TO TRAIN MANAGERS IN WHISTLEBLOWER LAWS

San Francisco Chronicle shows CSU spent $9 million in 3 years to settle and defend retaliation cases SACRAMENTO – Yesterday, the San Francisco Chronicle highlighted several major problems at the California State University (CSU) regarding employees who report waste, fraud and abuse. The Chronicle reported that CSU has spent $9 million over the past three years to settle and defend cases in which whistleblowers were retaliated against – often dismissed, denied promotion, or other retribution as a result of coming forward with wrongdoing.

“Rather than being rightfully applauded and thanked for reporting malfeasance, all too often CSU employees are unfairly retaliated against,” said Yee, who received his master’s degree and once taught at San Francisco State University. “Taxpayers and students can ill-afford to be pay millions and millions of dollars for abuses by managers and administrators. It is past due for the Chancellor to mandate all his executives receive training in California’s whistleblower protection laws.”

“The Board of Trustees needs to support these whistleblowers,” said Yee. “It is mind-boggling that rather than cracking down on bad behavior, they condone it by attacking the messenger and promoting the abuser.”

Yee has authored several laws to protect whistleblowers throughout California. This session, Yee is authoring Senate Bill 1336 to require public agencies, including the CSU, to disclose the findings of whistleblower complaints. Under current law, such whistleblower complaints are frequently sealed and the public is often never made aware of any findings or if any action was taken in response.

Yee’s SB 1336 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.

“Absent a lawsuit, 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.”

SB 1336 will be considered in committee next week.

The Chronicle highlighted several examples of retaliation against whistleblowers that were ignored by campus authorities until lawsuits were filed and the university was forced to pay millions of dollars by courts or through settlement.

A Cal State Long Beach language professor reported abuses of falsified teaching loads and plagiarism, and was then denied promotion and faced other forms of retaliation.  The university settled for $1 million and spent over $500,000 in legal costs.

A San Diego State fitness coach received poor assignments as retaliation for accusing a colleague of being drunk and cooperating with an investigation of the athletics department. CSU settled for $2.7 million and spent $1.9 million lawyers.

Three human resources employees at the Chancellor’s office were fired after questioning Chancellor Charles Reed for awarding $2.45 million in contracts to a consulting firm without a competitive bidding process.  The three employees settled for over $300,000, while CSU spent more than $160,000 in legal costs.

A lecturer at CSU East Bay reported a colleague spending thousands of dollars of public money on personal recreational equipment.  As a result, the whistleblower was fired and the offending employee continued to work at the university.

“CSU has created a culture in which whistleblowers do not feel comfortable coming forward,” said Yee. “The result is that abuse continues and millions of dollars are wasted at the worst possible time for students and California families.”

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