Whistleblower Protection Policy Gets Facelift
As we serve students and the community, the values of honesty, integrity, responsibility and public stewardship represent just a few areas that we are committed to as employees of the Maricopa Community Colleges. During the past year, this commitment was reiterated through policy changes, ethics training, and on-going conversations about public accountability. Employees serve an important role as gatekeepers of the public’s trust. Thus, whistleblower protection for employees represents an important safeguard in the workplace, protecting the rights of those whom the law deems as being whistleblowers (employees who disclose information of a matter of public concern to a public body).
The Maricopa Community College District has had such a policy since 1990. Last February, as part of the Blue Ribbon Panel’s recommendation, language was added to the policy recognizing the role of a 24-hour hotline and employee ombudsperson for the submission of complaints. Since launching the hotline and ombuds services in July, it became apparent that additional clarity was needed in the Whistleblower Protection Policy relative to necessary reporting requirements of the new services and the request for protected status.
While the 24-hour hotline and employee ombudsperson provide an avenue for employees to anonymously submit institutional concerns without retaliation, and also provide a method for Maricopa to conduct trend reporting as recommended by the Blue Ribbon Panel, neither the hotline nor the ombudsperson is considered to be a “public body” as defined in state statute or Governing Board Policy. Instead, parties who seek to request whistleblower protection when disclosing information of a matter of public concern should make that concern known to the appropriate public body. According to the Board Policy, a public body is defined as the Arizona Attorney General, the Arizona Legislature, the Governor of Arizona, the Maricopa County Attorney, a federal, state or local law enforcement agency, or the Maricopa County Community College District Governing Board. The services provided through the hotline and employee ombudsperson do complement the Whistleblower Protection Policy and serve to give employees a choice in bringing matters forward in an informal and anonymous fashion.
In November of 2007, the Governing Board adopted additional amendments to the policy in an effort to provide the necessary distinction that the hotline and the ombudsperson are not considered to be the public body. For additional information on the Whistleblower Protection Policy, please visit: http://www.maricopa.edu/publicstewardship/governance/adminregs/board%20resources/6_20.php.
in the Winter 2008 Edition of In Brief