Chelsea IrizarryAug 20, 2018, 6:11 pmAug 21, 2018, 1:35 pm

Whistleblower Protection Act would protect employees reporting abuse

Hempstead Town Board is reviewing the proposal before they vote on the bill


HEMPSTEAD — This year marks the 240th anniversary of the first whistleblower law in the U.S. as the Hempstead supervisor introduces similar legislation in his town.

“Since I came into office, I've received dozens and dozens of anonymous complaints from employees afraid to come forward,” Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen said.

Dozens of tips and complaints have been sent to Gillen from town employees, all choosing to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation and repercussions. Supervisor Gillen has introduced the town's first ever Whistleblower Protection Act.

“Offer protection to employees who come forward and report any items of waste taxpayer money, misuse of town resources, gross mismanagement,” she said.

The act would protect employees who report or disclose information that they reasonably believe to be a violation of any law, rule, policy, or regulation.

“It would give them the sense of security. If they go on the record, it can't be used against them,” she said.

The act would also allow employees to report potential waste, fraud, and abuse. Supervisor Gillen put forward a resolution calling for a public hearing on the law, but the town board voted to table it.

“I do intend to find a way to put it back on the agenda and put it back up for discussion,” she said.

A new rule limits the number of times an elected official can propose a resolution. If tabled, a board majority needs to vote to bring it back up for discussion.

In response, Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney says the town board only received the legislation a few days before they were expected to vote on the item and, "The board, while they believe this is an important issue, wanted to be sure that the legislation addressed all their concerns.” In addition, they wanted to review it with the town's labor council. The labor council will also analyze how the legislation compares to state and federal law. Once that review is completed, the board will consider the legislation or a variation they believe is in the best interest of all employees.

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