JEFFERSON CITY, Mo (December 6, 2017)
Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway today urged the General Assembly to pass legislation restoring protections and adding safeguards for public employees who report inappropriate activity in the workplace. The bills, sponsored by Sen. Jill Schupp and Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, also includes a provision to add transparency and taxpayer protections to state legal settlements.
"This legislation fights against a chilling effect that could undermine the state's ability to uncover wasteful, improper or illegal uses of taxpayer dollars," said Auditor Galloway. "Non-disclosure agreements as a part of state legal settlements, coupled with compromised protections for whistleblowers, allow improper government activity to be shrouded in secrecy."
“When there is wrongdoing or mismanagement in government, those responsible will go to great lengths to keep the public in the dark,” said Rep. McCann Beatty. “State law must ensure that people with knowledge of official misdeeds are encouraged to come forward without fear of retaliation and prohibit imposing gag orders on victims to keep the details of taxpayer-funded legal settlements secret.”
“It’s time to do away with secrecy in Jefferson City. We should be secure in the knowledge that our tax dollars are being well-managed and that our public officials are held accountable for their actions," said Sen. Schupp. "This legislation promotes transparency and protects public employees who speak out for the best interests of Missourians. I urge my colleagues to advance this bill without delay.”
Earlier this year, the Governor signed a law limiting legal protections for government workers who blow the whistle on improper or illegal activity in the workplace. The bill removed longstanding protections, putting state or local government workers who blow the whistle on wrongdoing at greater risk of being retaliated against or fired.
In September, Auditor Galloway released an audit of the state's Legal Expense Fund, which is the pool of money used to make payments stemming from lawsuits against the state. The report highlights how millions in taxpayer dollars are being spent on legal expenses with no system in place to track the amount and nature of payments. The audit found the state had spent more than $9 million over a six year period on employment discrimination cases.
State and public employees can use the Auditor's Whistleblower Hotline to share information on waste, fraud and mismanagement of taxpayer dollars. Reports are anonymous and protected by law. Individuals may contact the State Auditor's Whistleblower Hotline by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 800-347-8597. Concerns may also be submitted anonymously online at auditor.mo.gov/hotline.