With California's former Attorney General as the new Governor, perhaps whistleblowers will stand a chance of being protected under the law. Illegal retaliation for whistleblowing under Governor Schwarzenegger's Administration was commonplace. The California Whistleblower Protection Act was placed into law in 2000, but for the past 7 years of the Arnold reign, it was largely ignored unless it resulted in finding multi-millions of dollars worth of waste or fraud.
Far from acting on the revelations, attorneys and department directors refused to protect whistleblowers stating that they represented the State and often took action to squelch the concerned employee. The retaliation is what has prevented state employees, appointees, and contractors from coming forward.
A common practice for retaliation against appointees who quietly reported misconduct to top level Schwarzenegger officials was to require they pre-sign letters of resignation. The Governor's Office would threaten to put a date on the resignation letter if the appointee pursued the complaint.
Reports of UC professors being defunded or losing classes for whistleblowing came to light in 2008. Kathy Carroll, an attorney with the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, was fired for reporting gross mishandling of complaints against teachers. As an attorney, she would have an ethics violation if she allowed the misconduct of the commission to continue without reporting it.
In another incident, a California Department of Education employee reported corrupt practices involving community outreach programs designed to teach English and citizenship topics to immigrants. Instead of being rewarded for integrity, the Department transferred him to a position without any responsibilities.
Under Schwarzenegger, when a whistleblower approached their reporting chain under the office of the director in their department, they were often faced with attorneys who believed that they owed their duty to protect the state from the whistleblower and were not responsible for upholding the law. Several consecutive Chief Counsels in the Department of Water Resources held this view, based on reports by whistleblowers in that department.
A particular area where whistleblowers face grave consequences to their careers is complaining about the CEA selection process. The Career Executive Assignment (CEA) selection is supposed to reward our best state employees with promotions to levels of upper management. Have you ever wondered how somebody with so few qualifications could rise in state government? The system is rife with favoritism and corruption. So much so that for most state employees it is the brunt of jokes.
If California is ever to straighten up the regulatory process to help the economy recover and to bring the budget under control, it will have to begin with cleaning house of corruption. No one will trust a corrupt system.
One corrupt act, no matter how small, undermines faith in government. It is not only the multi-million dollar corruption cases that affect the State’s credibility, and therefore its ability to govern. Ignoring abuses of position also hurts the state.
For example, when state employees are caught repeatedly purjurering themselves at public board meetings, testifying against citizens seeking due process, the entire regulatory system is in jeopardy. This is particularly egregious when the employee is responsible for enforcement and gets away with the lies with no consequences.
With the Rule of Law as the core belief upon which he has built his career, perhaps Governor Brown will take action to build the state's whistleblower program into the powerful anti-corruption mechanism is is intended to be.