Whistleblowers play an important role in modern society, on both a large and small scale. Some of the biggest stories in history – from Watergate and the Pentagon Papers to Frank Serpico and the New York Police Department – came as a result of government and private employees alerting the press and authorities to immoral or illegal practices.
But whistleblowing comes with risks, especially for less high-profile disclosures at private companies. Things that don’t come with the protections of national press coverage. Employees might fear that turning in their boss will backfire on them.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, adverse actions against whistleblower activity don’t have to be overt, like firing. They can be subtle and difficult to recognize, including things like threats, reassignment, reducing hours, or denying overtime or promotions. They can also include isolating the employee or blacklisting them from the industry.
That’s why state and federal whistleblower laws exist. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has more than 20 whistleblower protections related to federal law.
Here in Connecticut, there are two major whistleblower laws protecting employees of both public and private entities from retaliation.
The first primarily protects state employees who report practices of state agencies to the Auditors of Public Accounts for investigation. Under the law, “Whistleblowers who believe they have been retaliated against may, among other actions, file a complaint with the chief human rights referee.”
Once a complaint is filed with the auditor’s office, it must be reviewed and findings must be reported to the Attorney General. The AG must then investigate “as he deems proper” and report those findings to the governor.
The auditor’s office can reject complaints during the initial review process for a number of reasons but they must submit a report to the AG’s office indicating why it is being rejected.
The second law protects both public and private employees from retaliation if they turn in their employer for illegal activity. It also protects employees who are participating in an investigation into their employer.
There are additional laws in place to extend the rights granted above to other public and private employees. These include extensions for police and corrections officers reporting excessive force, as well as protections for reports of abuse in long-term or elderly care facilities.
The Connecticut Auditors of Public Accounts evaluated 171 complaints during fiscal year 2021, according to the auditors’ annual report to the General Assembly, and handled 48 of them as whistleblower complaints, “covering matters such as alleged misuse of state funds, employee misconduct, personnel issues, and violations of federal or state law.”
The remaining complaints were “often” referred to field auditors for their work within particular agencies.
The auditors also reported they closed 43 whistleblower complaints, including from previous years, during the 2021 fiscal year. 2020 saw the highest number of whistleblower complaints for Connecticut with 64, according to the audit.
According to the Connecticut Office of Legislative Research, “Generally, the law allows anyone who knows of corruption, unethical practices, violations of state laws or regulations, mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, or danger to public safety occurring in any state or quasi-public agency, probate court, or large state contract to report it to the auditors of public accounts.”
December 15, 2022 @ 12:18 pm
Good article, but here is my concern. When I filed a federal lawsuit against the CT Chief State’s Attorney, he (John Bailey) was represented by the CT Attorney General”s Office (which according to the article, is tasked with investigating whistleblower complaints). How is this not a conflict of interest?
Further, as a whistleblower, I had to borrow money to pay for my private attorney. The Chief State’s Attorney, after losing the federal trial, immediately appealed and simultaneously requested hiring a team of expensive private attorneys at taxpayer expense, which was approved by — you guessed it — the Attorney General’s Office (at the time Dick Blumenthal).
Finally, even after 8 yrs had passed, the retaliation continued by the next Chief State’s Attorney (Christopher Morano), and he requested a team of high end attorneys represent him, again at taxpayer expense, which AG Blumenthal approved. And again, I had to pay for my private attorney. That case was eventually settled after Morano failed to get re-appointed to his position
How does any of this sound fair, and why would someone trust the AG’s office to be an advocate of a whistleblower in CT?
January 28, 2023 @ 11:50 pm
Greg understands the system. I am one of 48 Whistleblower Complaints handled by The Office of Public Accounts in 2021: The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; Negligence in Remediation Investigation.
Connecticut is an interesting state. We are best known for our rustic covered bridges, ancient stone walls, prestigious universities, and political corruption. We love corruption. We love reporting on it, reading about it, sharing it on social feeds, forwarding it to private inboxes. We say things like “this administration is the worst insofar as corruption as concerned” or “this would never happen when that administration was in office.” We focus on corruption when it suits our agenda, we look away when it doesn’t. But it’s always there.
The easiest thing for me to do is to blame this administration for the widespread culture of corruption that is thriving this very moment in Connecticut. Start at the top and let the heads roll. Governor Lamont, AG William Tong, Commissioner Dykes. Dykes isn’t even an elected official —she’s cherry-picked by the Governor to follow orders, further agendas, tow the party line. It’s easy to think the agenda she follows is her own, that she waves the party torch through the corridors of the capital with great honor, dignity, a sense of pride. I wish I could believe this scenario is real. I could hate her then. I could blame everything on her—the scapegoat.
But to Greg’s point, he is right, the Attorney General is responsible for protecting the state’s agencies and their employees. Like the parent who persistently defends the delinquent behavior of a truly child, The Office of The Attorney General quietly protects the interests of the state. That is their job. That is their responsibility. That is their constant burden, the pea under the mattress that is always there, kneading gently at their ribs. It’s easy to hate the Office of the AG. It sits atop an Ivory Tower surrounded by a moat filled with alligators and piranhas. If you’re fortunate enough to make it past the moat and across the drawbridge, there are buckets of hot molten lava waiting for you at the gate. Look up.
For whatever it’s worth, AG Tong advocated for the expansion of The False Claims Act in 2022. He testified in favor of it. He did his part. That Bill was the ultimate game changer—it incentivized whistleblowing. The problem is, Connecticut loves corruption. We are known for it. We nurture it, protect it, feed it daily. Why would we want to hurt that which we hold dearest?
The Office of Public Accounts is the only thing standing in the way of complete and utter tyranny. Most people don’t know who they are, where they came from, or what they do. I didn’t. Until I did. They are objective to the point of annoyance. Objectively speaking, they are frustratingly objective. It’s painful. You want to them to be subjective. They won’t. It’s annoying. Painfully annoying. You might even hate them at times. I did. But a year later, today, I can say this with utmost sincerity: If there was anything else that Office could have done for me, they would have.The Office of Public Accounts does not love corruption. I would argue, they hate the word as they hate hell..and all Montagues. But they report to the Montagues. And they Montagues create guardrails for their investigations. There are agendas at the top, the AG needs to protect its children at all costs, no matter what the crimes, transgressions, injuries to others.
There is incentive for Whistleblowers who report on corruption, abuse and waste in Connecticut healthcare and human services. There are rewards for your service, some monetary. You are protected. You will be extra protected if the AG feels your information is worthy of a civil suit where the government can make money of your testimony. They’ll even give you a portion of their earnings as a measure of good faith, a job well done.
I, on the other hand, have nothing to protect me. What I gave the Attorney General is a body of evidence which is problem for a lot of people. It goes much deeper than just government waste, abuse, and corruption, it exposes a system, and within that system, a series of interconnected relationships separated by district. It’s not favoritism, it’s something else, something more mutually beneficial—it flows both ways.
The AG is responsible for defending his children, no matter what the cost to the public, to public safety, to public health, or the environment. Last year was a blessing for AG Tong. Early retirement at DEEP and elsewhere. So timely. I watched as they stole away in the night like thieves, one by one, week after week, month after month.
At the end of the day, we have lost years of our lives fighting for justice and transparency. We are forever changed. But I refuse to be a victim of government corruption as I have a responsibility to defend my family and children just as The Attorney General has a responsibility to defend his. So I keep moving forward, keep fighting, keep surviving.
I am just one person. I am nobody. I am nothing in the grand scheme of things. Yet no one has more control over CT DEEP than I do. I am the reason the Roundtable Remediation Table just spins endlessly in place, getting nowhere, going nowhere. CT DEEP cannot move in the future without addressing the past first. The can which has been kicked down the road for years and years is now bouncing off a brick wall at the end of a desolate alley. It’s time to stop kicking can. It’s over.
Change never comes through a bumper sticker. If you have ever question whether a government agency is just agency, look to their Code of Ethics and measure it against performance. Does what you see and know of that agency align with the Code of Ethics it maintains?