Sunday, January 23, 2005
Long Island Lawmakers Rush to Protect Whistleblowers
Nassau County New York’s Republican legislators recently trumped legislative Democrats in a politically charged race to demonstrate which party cares more about protecting employees who report fraud, waste or abuse, according to a report in Newsday last week. The GOP caught the Democrats by surprise when they filed a proposed “whistleblower” law on Thursday, Jan 20, following a recommendation from the legislature’s budget review director.
Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) at first said she wasn’t sure the county needed a law. Perhaps, she said, after meeting with lawyers for County Executive Thomas Suozzi, a brochure informing employees of their rights would be sufficient. But then Minority Leader Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) issued a news release Thursday afternoon trumpeting the GOP proposal. So Jacobs issued her own press release announcing that she was researching efforts to protect whistleblowers.
By late Friday, Democrats had proposed their own whistleblower law. The initially reluctant Suozzi administration now was fully supportive. “We encourage employees to be proactive in fighting waste, fraud and abuse,” said Deputy County Executive Helena Williams. “When they do, they will have protections under the law available to them.”
Republican counsel Michael Deegan said the GOP proposal fills a gap in state law to protect “people divulging waste, fraud, abuse and illegal activity.” It also allows workers to bypass their superiors when reporting abuse if the superior is the problem. The Democrats’ proposal clarifies “how and when to report any improper government misconduct,” Jacobs said in a release. It also allows employees to bypass their superiors by alerting other top officials, including the district attorney.
Despite the versions, “without a question there is a need for such a law in Nassau County,” Hempstead attorney Fred Brewington said Friday. “They have argued that a whistleblower should not have any protections if, in the middle of blowing their whistle, they disrupt the flow of government.” Brewington is representing two former high-ranking county employees who sued Nassau, saying they were fired for reporting illegal misconduct.
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Posted by Qui Tam Admin
on 01/23 at 01:00 PM
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