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State Law Makers Vote to Protect Themselves from Whistleblowers

Whistleblowers are scary, especially if you’re engaged in unlawful or illegal activity…or if you ever plan to be. State lawmakers have recently made it clear that they don’t want to run the risk of being exposed….should they ever decide to do something illegal, of course.

California Assemblywoman Melissa Mendez (R-Lake Elsinor) tried to pass a bill (AB 2065) that would protect employees of the legislature from retaliation if they acted as whistleblowers, reporting unethical behavior on the part of state legislators. She grew concerned with the potential for whistleblowers to be reluctant to report misbehavior on the part of legislators after recent cases of nepotism in the Senate and a case wherein three Senators are being charged with corruption, perjury and conspiracy to traffic weapons.

It seems reasonable that the legislature would want to protect civic minded employees from the threat of losing their jobs or otherwise being retaliated against should they have evidence of wrongdoing on the part of their legislators. Apparently those Senators feel differently.

They voted at the end of this legislative session to kill the bill in its entirety.

The Bill provides:

“Existing law provides procedures for a person to file a complaint alleging violations of legislative ethics. Existing law also authorizes each house of the Legislature to adopt rules for its proceedings and to select committees necessary for the conduct of its business.

This act would prohibit interference with the right of legislative employees, as defined to make protected disclosures of ethics violations. It would also prohibit retaliation against legislative employees who have made protected disclosures. This act would establish a procedure for legislative employees to report violations of the act to the Legislature. The act would also impose civil and criminal liability on a person who interferes with a legislative employee’s right to make a protected disclosure or who engages in retaliatory acts, as specified.

By expanding the scope of crimes under the act, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.

This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.”

In short, it would create a system of anonymous reporting for legislative employees and protect them from retaliation.

After the Bill passed through the Judiciary Committee in April of this year, Assemblywoman Melendez stated “Every violation of the law by a public official is a violation of the public’s trust. The Legislature has a responsibility to ensure integrity in the people’s government by creating an atmosphere of transparency and accountability. Legislative employees have a unique opportunity to help provide that accountability by reporting any unethical behavior.”

The Bill was co-written and sponsored by Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo) who issued a statement stressing the bill’s importance.

“Legislative staff members are often the closest in proximity to instances of fraud, waste, and other violations, and as such are in the best position to report. Almost all state employees, including executive and judicial branch and public university employees, currently have whistleblower protection. In light of recent events, it is appropriate and necessary to give legislative staff this protection.”

While Melendez and Gorell are correct in their assessment of the need for whistleblower protection in the State’s Legislature, the State’s Senators seem to be more concerned with their own protections than for the protection of anyone who might tattle on them.

If you have reason to believe that your employer is engaged in fraudulent or unlawful behavior, contact Stephen Danz & Associates at (877) 789-9707 or use the Contact Form on our website to schedule a free consultation today. With over 30 years of experience defending the rights of California workers, Stephen is the best choice for your whistleblower or other employment law case.

We look forward to defending your rights.