Monday December 6, 2010

City Hall News

Whistleblowers Protected Under New Law

City of Chilliwack to ratify new policy Staff/Voice


he City of Chilliwack wants a squeaky clean image and doesn't want the public to lose faith in their ability to deliver services. In an effort to give people who report misconduct privacy, a new Whistleblower Policy currently in draft will be voted on in council chambers tonight.

The new policy will apply to all City employees, officers and elected officials, who for whatever reason engage in fraud, theft, health/safety violations, environmental abuse, embezzlement, kickbacks, bribes, misappropriation or misuse of funds, or engage in manipulating City accounts, adjusting or destroying audit records or concealing information.

Without a proper policy in place many people do not even consider blowing the whistle due to of fear of retaliation. Persecution of whistleblowers has been an issue in many parts of the world and although they are often protected under law from employer retaliation, there have been instances where punishment for whistle blowing has occurred, such as termination, suspension, demotion, wage garnishees, and bullying by other workers on the job.

The wording in the Chilliwack draft indicates that "any City employee may make a formal report of an allegation of serious misconduct. The policy guarantees that employees who make such a report in good faith will be protected against retaliation, discrimination, or reprisal as a result of that act."

The policy sets the parameters for internal reporting and outlines how the investigation unfolds and more importantly, it will provide protection from retaliatory actions on the whistleblower by staff or supervisors.

The policy sits well with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) who are waiting for word from the City regarding the Policy which is in draft and council has looked and at tonight's meeting will vote on the draft.

Louise Piper, President of CUPE Local 458, wrote in a letter to the city that "We would like to take a moment to thank the City's senior staff team for their efforts made and the work that they have completed in order to develop a policy that deals with serious misconduct issues in the work place."

The City has laid out a pecking order for complaints. For instance, if an employee sees something and wants to report, then that goes directly to their supervisor. The supervisor then takes that to their manager and the manager goes to the departmental director who in turn takes the information to a councillor who then goes to the Chief Administrative Officer with the information and that report would go to the mayor.

City workers who use the policy out of good faith to malign another employee will face sanctions and disciplinary action.

Reports are made in confidence and the complainant making the report will have their identity concealed, but any report must be made in writing either by themselves or a supervisor. Anonymous reports won't be investigated because the allegations cannot be substantiated.

Once the initial report is made, a "no contact" order is in place except outside of regular job duties. There will be a 10-day time limit on the investigation regarding the filing of a preliminary investigation report.

If proven, disciplinary action will be appropriate to the degree of misconduct and follow the terms of employment that is governed under terms of the collective agreement with CUPE.

If an employee wants to report themselves for misconduct, then they will face the same disciplinary action than if there was a report filed on them.

The Voice accepts whistleblower statements and takes ever precaution to protect the identity of the person.


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