tv [untitled] October 31, 2011 4:00pm-4:30pm PDT
responsiveness, which of taxpayer dollars, fraudulent activity and accountability. our investigation into the whistleblower program over several months clearly indicated that whistleblowers are honest people that are forced to become islands of isolation. the whistleblowers find a little solidarity, especially in the workplace. what they do find most often is a loss of employment or demotion. as stated in the report, san francisco's whistleblower program was in need of an overhaul. there should be mechanisms in place to protect whistle-blowers for the highest magnitude possible. months of investigation has shown confidentiality does need
-- on occasion for the alleged wrongdoing. additionally, we also have 364 complaint cases out of 804 complaints submitted to the two- year period of 2009 and 2010. members of our committee, the detailed spreadsheet from which each of these 364 complaints were carefully examined. all of our committee was well
acquainted with each complaint and the tracking numbers attached to them. he states that the grand jury pose a complete review was based on a small number of cases. unless you think that 360 is a small number. our calculations show that of 364 complaints received, only 36 were actual complaints. and at a couple of comments. he does not reflect in has, that members were in contact with him during the investigative process. he suggests that most of our interaction was with the
whistle-blowers' themselves. our interaction was primarily by e-mail. it should also be noted that only after the civil grand jury was well into its investigation of the whistleblower program, that the policy and procedures manual would be updated after five years and there were few benchmark studies being done, but only during that time as we began the investigation. the responses that he concluded that we interviewed five whistle-blowers. nowhere do we state that we interviewed five individuals. and we reported on five of the whistle-blower incidents, but we spoke with many more individuals. we also listened hugh examined -- to examine and glean facts.
the civil grand jury labored to find the controller's office program and the positive aspects of the program. we found a number of contributing factors. lack of follow up with whistle- blower complaints, failure to update marketing materials, the fact that complaints were sent to departments that were alleged with wrongdoing. whistle-blowers better have little -- seemed to have little faith in the program. and the oversight, it has been far more complacent than expressed by the comptroller's office.
one note of optimism, recent appointees show prospects for battle -- better whistleblower oversight. change cannot be achieved without cooperation. we hope that whistle-blower reports would be put out for the public. supervisor campos: do we have any questions? we wilil hear from the mptroller's office? and we have our
comptroller. >> ben rosenfield, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. i would start by thanking the civil grand jury for their work. also, the focus on the whistleblower program, we take issue with a number of the findings. once you get past some of those issues, and the methodology with which to conduct the report. it does make a set of recommendations for the program's improvement. i would run you through the recommendations, those that we agree with, and as auditors and ourselves, it is part of this process. the thoughts for improvement,
you need to keep an open mind regarding what they tell you and where they make reasonable recommendations that will add value to the effectiveness of what we think is an important program. as a whole, the report includes 15 findings and 15 recommendations for the program. we take issue with some of the findings and the tone of the overall report. we think the recommendations themselves off for a shared view that, frankly, between the team that acknowledges both the critical importance and does make recommendations that are in line with our overall efforts to enhance the program, and of the utmost importance, maintaining and protecting -- these programs are only as effective as
employees and contractors are comfortable coming to them to bring forward allegations of wrongdoing. in the program design, it is at the epicenter of what we endeavor to do. the civil grand jury makes a specific recommendation that focuses on program independence, transparency, and oversight. the adequacy of the tracking system we use, program outreach and education, leslie, of critical importance, retaliation. of those recommendations, we are in partial agreement with eight of the 14. we disagree with 4. two of them are outside of our jurisdiction. recommendations that we agree with that are either implemented is well under way,
the general obligation bond oversight committee is not a review board and per the charter serves as overseer of the program and provides advice on the running of the program. we have had several hearings in the last two and a half months regarding the report. it has formally adopted a set of changes that will continue to enhance the government's advice that that body offers to the program. there was a liaison to the program since the inception in 2004, that individual has served to privately review complaints, walked through our investigation, but the more recent steps that we concur
with involve the appointment of to liaisons' rather than a single individual. more formal work to define the role of liaison in terms of case sample in. and, hold quarterly reviews in public session going forward. historical practice has been to have at least an annual review in a public session, so it was not as if oversight was not occurring. they have adopted these steps to improve government going forward. the report recommends tracking numbers be a side to all cases. we agree with this. the exception to that, if you file a complaint on line or through the 311 system, you have a tracking number that allows you to determine what the
current status of your case was and ultimately what the finding was. the one exception to this is simply when someone leaves us no way to contact them. we see -- which received anonymous complaints. in those cases, it was impossible to recommend, but in most cases, we believe we are complying with the suggestion. the report correctly points out the importance of outreach and education for city employees regarding the importance of the program and the opportunity to bring forward complaints under the program. this has been a focus for many years. since deprogram's inception, we have sent to all city employees , four times a year,
communications through their paycheck stub regarding the program and reminding them of how they can file complaints. more recently, we have worked to augment that by incorporating sessions in orientations for new employees. it includes a segment on the whistleblower program and we have incorporated that into training for supervisors. and we have been working to develop more targeted out reach to make sure employees are aware of the program and their ability to bring forward complaints. lastly, we will continue to update the benchmark analysis regarding how the practice is allied with other jurisdictions. benchmarking was conducted at the time of the initial program set up. we will work going forward to
continued to benchmarking questions regarding the mechanics of this program against others in this day and the country to make sure that we remain in alignment with recommended practices and dominant practices of other places. the recommendations that we are in part agreement with where implementation is ongoing or under way, we think we partially agree with pieces of it and are working to implement. the civil grand jury recommends changes to the tracking database. the offer for recommendations here. we agree with two of those sub- recommendations involving combining a piece of tracking activity that we currently do in
the database. we do disagree with one of the recommendations, several here that have already been incorporated in the system allowing investigators to cut and paste females into the body of the system itself. the report offers some practical recommendations to improve the web site at with think the current web site is readable and usable. the vast majority r 3311 and offered practical discreet recommendations involving his examples of waste, fraud, and abuse. and other changes that we are under way without. we do agree with the general recommendations that it is always a challenge regarding communication to the whistle-
blower themselves during the course of the investigation. the current system we have been using as antiestablishment involves the assignment of a tracking number. then that tracking system has had limited information available about the complaint during the investigation at the close of the complaint regarding what the findings were. we were working to enhance the level of reporting. an individual would be able to ascertain if we had signed the investigation to other party. and the following the close of an investigation, there will be a general summary of our findings. lastly, the grand jury makes a recommendation, it provides high
level summaries of cases that we have closed as examples of the activity that we have had come in. this public reporting has been limited and it is typical of most whistleblower programs. it is limited because it allows someone to hunt for the whistleblower and retaliate against them. we have seen examples of reporting from other jurisdictions, we think it balances this need -- >> what is different in those jurisdictions from what we are
than that? >> at the moment, we are updating the annual reporting requirement to incorporate enhancements that come from san diego. of all complaints that were sustained during the last year. with this recommendation, we will provide summaries of all the investigations we do and not just jews continues as examples. >> from my perspective, what is happening right now with respect to the board of supervisors? >> at times, the board has called for hearings. we would welcome that if this committee is interested.
we're hoping to have this revised public report for the last fiscal year. looking around, we see places where enhanced public reporting has happened. including a public finding is illegal under california law. california cut create a set of rules to run these programs. the rules are designed to insurer limitations the public disclosure that might breach the confidentiality of the whistle- blower themselves. the specific recommendation is not possible under state law, but the theme of this recommendation is in line with our thinking about enhancements of public reporting.
there are four recommendations that we disagree with in the civil grand jury's report. of the 14, we do not plan to employment a recommendation that the office should conduct of investigations internally, limited only to our office. this has not been a practice of any other whistle-blower government program we are aware of. it is not feasible for our office to conduct each of the investigations for each of the complaints that come in any given year. the practice is when complaints come in, cases where another entity has jurisdiction, we refer that to those places and let the whistleblower and of the case has been moved. and where there is not a chartered conflict, we raised the risk with the severity of the complaint to determine how
we will investigate it. our typical practice would be to refer to a department and ask them to investigate and report back with findings. examples would be misused of city vehicles. it would not be practical for the investigators we have allocated to this program to investigate each of these complaints. but we have a response come back to us and review it for adequacy. the high-risk cases that -- the processing is to conduct the investigation ourselves or to conduct at in consultation with an expert in a given city department. where often teeming with the department of human resources or with the city attorney or with other specialists. we maintain contact with those
investigations, but it is simply not practical to conduct all of them ourselves. >> i understand that what you're saying makes a lot of sense. at the same time, i can see the point in theory, the idea that a complaint is filed without something bad is happening in a specific department and to have the department itself turnaround and investigate that. what do other jurisdictions do? what is the best practice for something like this? >> the standard practice we have seen in other government programs is consistent with ours, for lower-level complaints, they are referred to a department for investigation. reviewing how the investigation was conducted and completed. for high-risk cases, using
investigators and those investigations. there are circumstances where it would be inappropriate for the department themselves to be involved in the investigation of the complaint. we received allegations against department heads and we go to great pains to investigate those complaints without involvement from the department had or their senior staff. that would be true conflict. fundamentally, i believe that the department of public works has -- organizationally, it should have the desire to police the use of vehicles by employees. i think it is appropriate that the human resources function, it is appropriate for them to investigate allegations of misconduct by their employees at this level. supervisor campos: on that note,
is there a review or any oversight of the adequacy of the investigation? gosh we refer these low-level complaints to the department, they would send a response back to us. questions would be, what did you do? how did you conduct it and what is your recommendation? if that is consistent with what we have seen. the civil grand jury creates a suggestion that we should create a process to redirect all non- waste, fraud, and abuse that we disagree with. we already have procedures in place. the majority of the cases come into that program. we have training twice a year.
that currently occurs and has since the inception of the program, i think the point that the grand jury is getting to is that we receive a lot of what we consider low risk cases, or low impact cases to the program. and the program should not be taking those cases. we should be referring them elsewhere for review. our point is simply that we have training regarding a filter and we would prefer to receive complaints and to make that judgment ourselves. often what i might consider to be abusive might not be would you consider to be abusive. i don't want to be in the position to telling potential complaints that we disagree with your complaints of abuse. our preference is to take the cases and, and appropriately assigned them back out to
departments for referral. if we were spending all of our time reviewing low-level complaints with the program's staff, that would be a problem. at the moment, we are targeting our limited resources to spending staff time with high- profile complaints. the civil grand jury recommends using an appeals process, using an independent in the ministry of law judge where if a complete and disagreed with our findings, they could appeal that and we would have to read conduct of the program. this is not a procedure that is standard practice in local government programs. we are one of many doors available, and there are other opportunities if someone is not satisfied. they have other doors open to
them, and it is simply, from a workload perspective, not manageable. they can go directly to the citizen auditor review board. they can come to the board of supervisors, the mayor's office, the district attorney's office, or other investigative evidence in the city. and last, the civil grand jury recommends establishing a reward system for a high-risk whistle- blower complaints. this is not dominant practice again in whistleblower programs. it makes us very nervous to create this. the thinking is that you want to create incentives for people to bring forward a waste, fraud, and abuse that they are aware of. the edmonton to the consequences
of the financial rewards are somewhat scary to us. that is why this has not been instituted in many local government whistle-blower programs. frankly, there are a number of individuals that are part of the control system itself and the job is to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse from occurring. awarding those individuals create a set of challenges. city employees or contractors billing, reporting whistleblower fraud that they are aware of until it reaches a dollar value threshold is another unintended consequence we are worried about. while we appreciate the recommendation, it is not one that we are in agreement with. and lastly, there are two recommendations that are under the jurisdiction of the ethics
commission. the design of the program in san francisco, complaints come into the whistleblower program and are referred for investigation. the ethics commission is independently assigned the responsibility for reviewing and investigating claims of retaliation. that a whistle blower was terminated as a result of them bringing forward a complaint, it is a critical part for the success of these programs. it is also considered the standard practice that his investigation are retaliation would not occur. that is a standard practice, and best practice in this world. these specific recommendations that are directed to the mechanics of how the process works really aren't hours to respond to.