Shielding whistleblowers

In the aftermath of this week’s Supreme Court decision, unleashing an unlimited flow of cash and influence on our political system, the concerns of Vermont State Auditor Doug Hoffer that “whistleblowers” be insulated against reprisals, gain particular prescience.

It is no secret that Hoffer is held in high regard amongst the admins and regulars on GMD; and this is an example of why.

Hoffer joins Jed Guertin and others in asking lawmakers to strengthen the protections for individuals who bring to light wrongdoing in their government workplace.

Guertin was a computer systems specialist at what was then (1994) the Department of Travel and Tourism. Guertin’s supervisor had sought to steer a valuable software contract toward a firm that had no business winning the bid…

Unable to solve the problem internally, Guertin blew the whistle publicly. And when his supervisor learned of his breach, Guertin quickly found himself frozen out at the government agency he’d spent 12 years climbing the ladder…(He) went on to win a small cash settlement for his treatment at the hands of his superiors – along with an official letter praising his accomplishments on behalf of the department

But the somewhat positive outcome for Guertin came at great personal cost, which would discourage most ordinary citizens from going down the same road to justice.

Recognizing the benefit to the state as a whole and to taxpayers in particular when workers have no fear of calling attention to corruption in governmental departments, Hoffer believes existing protections are insufficient and require reinforcement.  

“You don’t want people to think, ‘Oh, I have to hire a lawyer, and go through the process before I can just find some safe place and tell someone what I know,'” Hoffer says. “And that’s what I want to do, is create a safe place.”

Legislation that would protect whistleblower’s anonymity is currently making its way from the Vermont House to the Senate. The Vermont ACLU has questions about possible impacts of that legislation on open government.  

It’s not a simple issue, on either side of the fence, but now is the time to endeavor to get it right.  

On Capitol Hill, the floodgates of corruption are about to be opened and it won’t take long for that trickle-down to reach Vermont.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

One thought on “Shielding whistleblowers

  1. Sue. Without whistleblowers (like Arnie Gundersen, who along with family suffered greatly following his shakedown by nuclear mafiosi) we don’t know anything.

    A bit surprised by the lack of comments as story pertains to VT. Nuclear & local stories I can sorta understand as I must admit I’ve succumbed to Vermont Yankee/Fukushima fatigue myself from time to time. But that story will not be told if someone doesn’t tell it.

    I’ve been out straight with everything & will be for a day or two plus sniffing out the latest victim of “gun violence” in our bucolic pastoral-scened state, so perhaps everyone else also in busy-bee mode.  

    All or vast majority of information provided by whistleblowers is necessary to protect the public from some form of harm, even if it is reporting suspected fiscal malfeasance. That Mr. Hoffer actually wants to discover what’s going on under the shield of darkness is admirable as many state and other employees just want to accept the status quo, do as little as possible & call it a day. Unsure about this but Mr. Salmon didn’t seem to want to do much but whine & cry when documents his office possessed were requested. I remenber him sitting at his desk for a photo-op of a stack of docs which, correct me if I’m mistaken actually are paid for & belong to the public, not just the “office”.

    Unfortunately, some are mere bureaucrats with advanced pencil-pushing & telephone operating skills who seem to think the mere shuffling of papers & dispensing of documents is “work”. Good to have someone who recognizes that the good people of VT deserve better & that all who serve the public owe a watchful eye for abuse & corruption.

    While worker and public safety issues are paramount, we seem to have a very leaky fiscal boat here in VT. I’m wondering if or when it’s going to sink.

    Seemingly endless litany of examples of employees on the take as well as embezzlement, not just of atate employees but other citizens in business is jawdropping. And for crying out frikkin loud it’s sometimes many millions! Interestingly, following the VSP Deegan case, reportedly, the amount of “overtime” dropped preciptously. So, these “trusted” troopers are allowed to fill out own time cards/sheets? Really? Wow, just wow if it hasn’t changed. What if everyone did this?

    Worked at Dunkin Donuts, called into an office by the coke-snorting drug addict franchisee clutching a cash register tape asking why I pressed this button & than that button at a given time ??? With a soviet-bread line of customers as well as manning the drive-thru & always greatly understaffed, when busy, employees are typically running asses off jockying the ever-increasing menu of new something-wiches which must be assembled then heated in differing contraptions, wrapped & sacked then combined with trayed beverages of all shapes & sizes so it’s not easy to remember what buttons were pressed & when.

    First, we are under live surveillance at all times as are convenience stores so nearly impossible to pilfer the register. Secondly, surveillance is recorded, I believe.

    We have our own registers & I think they can take it out of pay if short. This never happened to me so unsure.

    So, why aren’t all handlers of funds scrutinized thusly? There should be at least a protocol. I’m simply astonished that there isn’t. Banks sure have them or I think we can se the inevitable result.

    And, now we have a new one:

    Did state miss warning signs in employee fraud case?

    Posted: Apr 04, 2014 4:52 PM EST

    Updated: Apr 07, 2014 4:00 PM EST

    By Jennifer Reading

    http://www.wcax.com/story/2516

    I would say so! There have been many others — how many more are there? How much more money are taxpayers in state of VT going to pay to finance the sometimes luxurious lifestyles of these common criminals who get off with basicly a wrist-slap so they can get out to work off their pared-down settlement. And why aren’t spouses questioning the opulent lifestyle? Why aren’t friends, neighbors, family, bosses, fellow employees questioning extravagent gifts, vacations, jewelry & expensive homes & vehicles?

    Hopefully the public employees will not lose “part of” pensions & health care. And recoupment continues until paid in full, with homes & luxury vehicles are seized also. Great way to get family members to cooperate or even stop it as they will also be suffering if homes & vehicles are snatched. Honest hardworking Vermonters deserve no less.  

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