To help town employees feel more comfortable about reporting possible wrongdoing in the town government, the Town of New Canaan will be implementing a whistleblower policy which allows them to report incidents anonymously and without fear of retribution.
"This is a policy for when a contractor, an employee, an official reasonably and genuinely believes there was a wrongdoing in town," said Human Resources Director Cheryl Pickering-Jones as she presented the policy during Tuesday's Board of Selectmen meeting. "[This way] they have an avenue they can follow — whether that be reporting it to a manager, HR, the ethics committee..."
Pickering-Jones said the policy, which has been vetted through the town's attorney, establishes guidelines for reporting perceived wrongdoing and gives employees peace of mind.
"The most important part for the employees is that they can report without fear of retaliation," Pickering-Jones said, adding that many surrounding towns have adopted similar policies. She said the policy's "retaliation clause" helps protect employees from, for example, wrongful termination or pay cuts after they've reported what they feel is a wrongdoing — even if the suspicion turns out to be false.
"It seems to me a shame that life has gotten to the point where all this stuff needs to be put in writing," said Selectwoman Beth Jones. "You would think this should be expected... but life's not like that today, so, you've got tot write it down."
Selectman Nick Williams said while he understood and sympathized with Jones' concern "as a lawyer I also realize that having the added protection of having a written policy is recommended."
"Spelling it out helps further protect [the town employees] — even though they have rights and are afforded protection under state law," Williams said.
First Selectman Robert Mallozzi said he feels the policy "sends the right message to our employees — about the way the town expects you to be treated..."
Implementation of the whistleblower policy is one of numerous measures Mallozzi said he wants to put in place following recent allegations that the previous town administration made procedural errors in managing the town's pension fund, as well as the recent discovery that unauthorized payments had been made from the town's capital expenditures account.
Most municipal whistleblowing policies that allow for anonymous reporting require the whistleblower to provide some form of corroborating evidence in order for an investigation to be launched.
Some towns have even gone so far as to offer a toll free "whistleblower hotline" which can be used by the public to report incidents anonymously.